Dairy Connect is a scheme whereby farmers help out other farmers. Annette Taylor finds out more about it.
It’s all about support, connections and a sense of community.
I am sitting in the sun with Kate Haultain at Woodlands café on a spring morning. Her 1o-month-old daughter Charlotte is with us.
Kate is the Waikato co-ordinator for Dairy Connect, a scheme run by DairyNZ and the farmers themselves, she says.
She took up the role in February and has seen it make a real difference to those in the farming community.
“Farming can be a stressful and expensive enterprise and can seem overwhelming. What we do is simply connect people up, so if someone is wanting to try something new, or is facing challenges, we put them in touch with another farmer who can relate, and who has real insight into the problem.”
Kate herself is a local, with a background in sheep and beef farming. She is married to Jamie Haultain, whose family have farmed in the area for many years. Prior to this she vet-nursed for six years.
“Jamie is a consulting officer with DairyNZ, and is on the road every day, talking to farmers and working with them on various issues. We operate independently, but together have an idea of what dairy farmers face.”
The scheme, now in its fourth year, has been called a new approach to bring farmers together and share information. Topics include infrastructure, animals, business, environment, feed and people.
“It can range from putting in a new feed pad, upgrading the shed or effluent system, or wanting to try out a new crop. They can also be questions about staffing, career development, or having someone to ‘walk with’ for a bit while developing a new perspective and better work/life balance.
“We connect them with another farmer who has worked their way through the issue, and who can relate to them. The advice is confidential, no one is trying to sell anything, so it’s independent and based on experience. It’s all about sharing knowledge and making connections, sometimes friendships.
“Often talking to someone who you don’t know is a great way to work things out, it can be hard opening up to your mates some times,” she says.
About 240 connections have been made since the scheme started in 2011, primarily in the Waikato. (It also operates in Taranaki and Northland.) There are 85 ‘support’ farmers in the region who are happy to chat and share their knowledge, experience and support.
Farmers can fill out a prepared card with their details, which is posted to Kate at Dairy Connect, or this can be done on-line. She then finds someone with the necessary expertise and passes on the contact details.
“It’s up to them to make the call. They can chat on the phone, over email or face-to-face, however they want to go about it. Very often there’s an invite to the farm to take a look.”
She always follows-up and says feedback is fantastic. “Sometimes I ask how it went and they say ‘bloody brilliant, we chatted an hour on the phone and it wasn’t even about the farm.’ Farmers love chatting, and they love helping others. They’re very generous with their time.”
It’s also about being part of the local community, helping those in need and looking after one another.
Many of the farmers are chuffed when they hear that often Kate works from home, keeping an eye on baby Charlotte.
“They understand that, because it’s how farming families work. I get a lot of lovely comments.”
To find out more about Dairy Connect, click here.
To email Kate, click this link or phone her on 027 487 7160