Closer connections forged during lockdown

Fernside farmer Richard Stalker, who runs two dairy farms in a semi-urban area on the outskirts of Rangiora, has made closer connections with his neighbouring life-style block owners throughout the lockdown period.

“We’re a bit different to other farms as we border Rangiora with one 200-hectare block east of Rangiora near the golf course, and another 44-hectare run off block in Fernside which is surrounded by lifestyle blocks.”

“We’re also sharemilking a 200-hectare block for the Spark Brothers which is located east of Pak n Save in Rangiora. Being located closer to the town gives us the opportunity to interact with a wide range of people living different lifestyles.”

Richard says that while prior to Covid-19 he would get a wave from neighbours as they whizzed by on their way to or from work, he didn’t really feel that many fully understood what was involved with farming on a daily basis.

Fernside farmer Richard Stalker enjoyed having lunch on the farm during lockdown with his wife and daughters Annabelle (13) and Georgie (11).

“Suddenly we all had more time, and we could see more of each other’s daily lives. I think slowing down and focusing on essentials really helped people reconnect with the land and think more about where their food comes from and the work and care that goes into producing it”.

“Many of the neighbours were out walking, or biking and they stopped for a chat and gave us big smiles and waves. That really meant a lot to me – the feeling of being connected to the wider community and having some positive feedback was such a boost.”

One of Richard’s neighbours was happy to see first-hand the improvements he had put in place this year for his wintering block with more shelter provided for young stock, and no winter crops.

“When you make improvements that have a positive impact for your animals and the environment it’s important for people to see the changes. She always gives me a big wave and a smile now.
Richard says while he is pleased that farming is making a positive contribution to New Zealand’s post-Covid economic recovery, he remains focused on improving his farming practices over the long-term.”

“For me, it’s all about improving how we farm and minimising the impact on the environment. The triple bottom line of social, environmental, and economic impact is ingrained in how we operate. In terms of the economy though, it’s important to recognise that while we are just one farming family, we support a lot of small and large businesses located in our towns and cities.”

“While acknowledging farming’s role in the economic recovery, I want to remain humble and focused on how I can continue to improve what we do on farm and how that impacts everything around us.”