Group founder praised for connecting rural folk

The founder of Whatever with Wiggy, a word-of-mouth online forum for people in rural communities, has been praised by his peers nationwide for keeping members connected and sane during Covid-19.

Traditionally a behind-the-scenes type, Craig Wiggins, of Mid Canterbury, will put himself out there, especially if it is to help farmers.

Fellow Mid Cantabrian Angela Cushnie organised a "thank you" surprise for Mr Wiggins from the members nationwide, which was delivered last week.

"Craig has given generously of his time, energy and knowledge. He understands the importance of connecting people and has been very involved in advocating for rural New Zealand for many years, wearing lots of different hats," she said.

"The secret of Wiggy’s success is his grassroots approach to tackling the topics that matter. He keeps things real and gives everyone a chance to be heard which is something the group appreciates," she said.

Mr Wiggins is a public figure working as an MC, columnist, videographer, sports commentator, horse trainer and farmer. In his spare time he is a rural health advocate and farmer wellbeing champion, putting his ability to connect with others to good use.

Mid Canterbury wellness advocate Pup Chamberlain, who has sat in on a number of the Zoom meetings, said anything that reached out to people and gave information was helpful to people’s wellbeing, especially to those in isolated rural communities.

Whatever with Wiggy covered a range of topics current relevant to those in the rural communities that week, giving farmers and others in the rural industry a chance to vent, or just connect with others.

Northland farmers Suzanne and Terence Brocx, who were in Mid Canterbury last week, said the online platform connected them with farmers from all around New Zealand in a time where food and fibre industries are vital to New Zealand’s prosperity.

"It has widened our understanding of New Zealand farming issues outside of our usual dairy focus.

"Wiggy’s great facilitation allows everyone to input, debate and think about potential solutions to nationwide issues," they said.

"We love the thinking, challenging conversations and friendship this group has grown. A highlight of a recent trip south was meeting Wiggy as well as a few other ‘WWWers’."

The Whatever with Wiggy Zoom sessions started during the Covid-19 lockdown as a way to connect with other farmers.

The group is still going strong and at last check had more than 710 members from Kerikeri to Invercargill.

Mr Wiggins also co-founded, with Rakaia GP Sue Fowlie, the Farmer First rural health clinic, which attends rural events to reach rural people.

It was most recently set up in a horse float at the Foundation for Arable Research’s Crop Day event.

The mobile clinic highlighted a gap in rural health and was a way to get a GP to farm events and normalise regular health checks for farmers.

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