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Three years of drought and the 2016 earthquake had forced farmers to rethink their farming operations to become more resilient, she said.
"I was brought on board following initial discussions for the project which found that a number of people were looking at developing tourism opportunities and farmers were interested in being able to tell their stories of their earthquake experience, family heritage, farming practices and ecological diversification."
Before joining the project, Dr Fountain was already working with North Canterbury wine growers and the Kaikoura community to explore opportunities for diversifying the local economy.
"It’s about ensuring farmers are making informed decisions by being aware of the opportunities and the pitfalls, whether they are making decisions about tourism, honey or planting trees, and helping them establish useful contacts and networks."
Farmers quickly realised there were advantages to working together and with the wider community, Dr Fountain said, recalling an early meeting in the Waiau Hall.
"Some farmers knew each other, but others didn’t and many didn’t know their neighbours were also thinking about tourism, so it was a good opportunity to find out ... what synergies there were and what people had in common."
This year’s activities had been "slightly curtailed" by Covid-19, but the farmers she had been working with remained optimistic.
"Covid-19 has been disastrous for the tourism industry, but for the farmers, they are used to fluctuating markets, whether it be the milk price, the wool price, the meat price or rural tourism.
"The farmers have said, ‘OK, tourism is not happening at the moment, but we’ve had a bumper crop and the rainfall has been good this year’.
"Primary producers have a number of strings to their bow. It’s about not having all your eggs in one basket."
But it is not all doom and gloom for the tourism industry, despite the border being closed to international tourists, Dr Fountain said.
"For every dollar Cantabrians spend on domestic tourism, they spend $6 on international tourism, so even if only 50% of that is spent on domestic tourism this summer, it will make a big difference," she said.