New Farmstrong challenge a big help

They say timing is everything and, in the case of the inaugural Be Farmstrong Challenge, it couldn’t have been better for the cyclone-ravaged East Coast of New Zealand. 

 The Be Farmstrong Challenge was part of this year’s FMG Young Farmer of the Year’s Region-off. The FMG Region-off was a new sub-category that saw seven regions from around New Zealand compete against each other. 

 Hawke’s Bay farmer and Unison Networks relationship manager Isabelle Crawshaw helped organise and run the East Coast’s entry into the Be Farmstrong Challenge and FMG Region-off.  

 She says people got fully behind the challenge and the feedback was awesome. 

 “It was a great opportunity for people to get involved with the community and it was hugely needed after the cyclone,” she says. 

 “It was easy to get people on board and everybody was so grateful and stoked to receive support.” 

 Points for the FMG Region-off were earned for each region through public voting, community focussed challenges (Be Farmstrong Challenge) and regions winning specific categories during the grand final. 

 All 14 tasks in the Be Farmstrong Challenge incorporated the Five Ways to Wellbeing (connect, take notice, give, learn and be active) and points earned went towards the FMG Region-off points tally. 

 Tasks included things like fixing fencing, gardening for golden oldies, chopping firewood, meal deliveries, river/beach clean-up, checking in with a mate and helping a local farmer. 

 The East Coast won the FMG Region-off, taking away provincial glory and a raft of cash prizes for participants and the region’s chosen charity – East Coast Rural Support Trust.  

 Staying connected important 

 Isabelle and her husband Patrick, who have two pre-school children, run a 280ha sheep and beef farm in Patoka, one of the areas worst hit by Cyclone Gabrielle. 

 Isabelle says it’s been super important to make sure everybody in the community has stayed connected following the cyclone. 

 “When you go through an adverse event like Cyclone Gabrielle, people realise the importance of leaning on one another and giving back.” 

 She says the timing of the Be Farmstrong Challenge and FMG Region-off was great because it provided an opportunity to continue helping the community, especially those who are still dealing with the aftermath of the cyclone. 

 “We did all sorts of things to help the community like meal drives, events, and we also put together 102 winter pick-me-up packs and got them delivered to help people get through the winter and to put a smile on their faces.” 

 Isabelle says it was amazing for the East Coast to win the FMG Region-off. 

 “It was really cool and meant a lot. We put in a lot of work, and it was really rewarding to come out on top.” 

 Patrick Crawshaw took out the East Coast Young Farmer of the Year title and attended the grand final in Timaru in July. 

 Napier Boys’ High School lends a hand 

 Students at Napier Boys’ High School also took part in the Be Farmstrong Challenge and FMG Region-off, accumulating valuable points for the East Coast. 

 Napier Boys’ High School head of agriculture Rex Newman says students in the Young Farmers Club got to work in the weekends, helping the community out and gathering points for the FMG Region-off.  

 “The lads pitched in doing all sorts of jobs like removing silt, fencing jobs, chopping firewood and general cleaning up,” Rex says. 

 “We helped the community out in any way we could. We got the shovels out and dug out silt, clambered under houses and cleared yards. 

 “Many hostel students were cut off from their homes and valued being able to get out and help where they could as well.” 

 Napier Boys’ High School Year 12 student Fergus Tomlinson got stuck in and helped out by planting trees, removing silt and cleaning up properties that were damaged. 

 “It was pretty devastating seeing all the damage around, but it was good to see the lads out and about helping less fortunate people,” says Fergus, who studies agriculture and is in the Napier Boys’ High School Young Farmers Club. 

 “Even though people’s situations were pretty bad, there was still room for a few laughs and the feeds were pretty mean.” 

 Fergus says it felt great being able to lend a helping hand. 

 “It felt pretty good helping others in need, but it’s sort of just what you do when someone is in a worse spot than you because of something they couldn’t control.” 

 Proud of motivated students 

 Rex says the students always helped the community out before the cyclone, but post-cyclone there was a lot of extra work to do. 

 And he says the students didn’t need any motivating to lend a hand. 

 “It was no problem getting them into the van on the weekends and committing their time. I was pretty proud of what they achieved,” he says. 

 “I can’t speak highly enough of the young rural folk in Hawke’s Bay.” 

 He says he and the students were “pretty chuffed” when they found out the East Coast had won the FMG Region-off. 

 Rex says competitions like the Be Farmstrong Challenge and FMG Region-off are great for students. 

 “I love that there’s an organisation such as Farmstrong and it’s great for the kids to be involved with it early on. For students going into farming, knowing Farmstrong is there and that there’s support there if they need it is wonderful.” 

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