New voice offering support

Claire Ford
Claire Ford
Claire Ford is looking forward to supporting North Canterbury farmers.

The former sharemilker is the new friendly voice on the end of the phone on North Canterbury Rural Support Trust’s support line.

‘‘I’ve always had a passion for the rural community and an interest in wellbeing and giving people the tools to cope with whatever life throws at them,’’ Mrs Ford said.

She started in the role two weeks ago, taking over from Bridget Frame, who was the co-ordinator for three years, through drought and the 2016 earthquake.

‘‘I do have big boots to fill. Bridget did an amazing job to work through all of that.

‘‘Hopefully, I will get at least six months in the role before anything else happens.’’

Originally from Christchurch, Mrs Ford trained at the National Trade Academy before entering the dairy industry in Mid Canterbury.

She met her husband Caleb on a farm at Rakaia and ‘‘it snowballed from there’’.

The couple were contract milkers at Southbrook and placed third in the manager of the year category in the Canterbury-North Otago Dairy Industry Awards in 2010, before moving over to the West Coast.

They went on to win sharemilker of the year in the West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards the following year.

‘‘We had rough times, but it was really good,’’ she said.

‘‘It was busy. We had a couple of big farms, mostly of 800 cows and we went through a pretty serious drought.’’

After three years on the West Coast, the couple returned to Canterbury working on farms in Mid Canterbury, until Mr Ford was offered a job as a project manager three years ago.

They moved to a lifestyle block at Loburn, north of Rangiora, last year.

‘‘We moved around so much, but that’s the nature of sharemilking. You move around to the next job. So it’s really nice to have our own place and to be settled.’’

Being new to the role, her main focus for now was promoting the workshops with former New Zealand police crisis negotiator Lance Burdett and getting to know the area.

She said more ‘‘Good Yarn’’ workshops and initiatives to promote wellbeing were in the pipeline.

The support line 0800 Rural Help (0800 787-254) diverts calls to her cellphone from the North Canterbury region, which covered the area between the Rakaia and Clarence Rivers.

‘‘My phone is always on, but if I need a break there is the ability to arrange that,’’ she said.

‘‘If I can help one person, then I’ve made a difference. Farming is not easy and it’s 24/7, so if people need a chat or to vent, I am here.’’

-By David Hill

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