2012 is the Australian Year of the Farmer – a Year designed to acknowledge and celebrate the farmers’ contributions to feeding and clothing the nation…
The contribution farmers make to the Australian economy and community is vital. Every person who eats food, wears natural fibre or lives in a timber home is connected to farming. Our modern lives often make it difficult to connect with a farmer and understand how they work to provide the necessities we use every day. FarmDay is a unique opportunity for city families to meet and spend time with a farming family in the spirit of fun, friendship and understanding.
Now in its seventh year, FarmDay is again asking farmers to open their gates and share their day with a city family. Deb Bain, Founder of FarmDay, tells us what’s involved.
2012 is the Australian Year of the Farmer. How significant is this national nod to the Aussie farmer?
I sit on the Board of Australian Year of the Farmer, and we are working hard to ensure that this year will highlight all the great things rural Australia has on offer – especially the farmers!
We are also working to encourage young people to consider the vast array of career opportunities that exist in the agricultural sphere. Farmers obviously have always been a big part of our lives, but it seems to be even more so now, with a much greater focus on our burgeoning population, the quality of produce and the story behind our food. The opportunity for a broader opportunity to get to know the farmers behind our great Australian produce is going to be very valuable for us all.
How did FarmDay come to fruition, and whose idea was it?
Many of the world’s best ideas are hatched around kitchen tables, and FarmDay is one of them. I am Canadian by birth, a pharmacist by trade and was a tried and true city girl until moving to a wool and lamb property in western Victoria to be with my husband. After making that move, I discovered a real disconnect between people in urban areas and our farmers.
The lack of connection often means there is lack of understanding. FarmDay is all about helping families reconnect across this rural urban divide and, in particular, helping city families understand the day-to-day life of a farming family.
How does FarmDay work?
Participating in FarmDay is simple – you can register online on www.farmday.com.au and fill in the form – it usually takes about five minutes. Once you have registered, one of our lovely FarmDay staff will call to have a chat. If you are a city family, you will be asked about what you want to see and how far you are willing to travel (this may be the opportunity for that outback experience you have always wanted!) If you are a farming family, we will talk to you about your farm and what you’re keen to share with a visiting family. Matching is done by each of the staff members, and we’re pretty good at matching families who get along well.
All families are given information to help them prepare for their FarmDay visit. On the weekend of May 26 – 27, we will have about 400 city families travelling to visit their host families.
More than 1,000 families have participated in FarmDay since 2007, with stories of marriages, tree changes and friendships being created along the way. Tell us about some of these experiences?
When I first started FarmDay in 2006, it was going to be a one-off, but as the wonderful stories, photos and children’s drawings started pouring into the office, I realised this unique event had a far-reaching impact on the people who participated. We have certainly had families who have made the final decision to move to the country as a result of their FarmDay experience and a marriage proposal on the drive home from FarmDay.
So many long standing friendships – children who have FarmDay ‘grandparents’, farm families travelling to the city to go to the football with their city family, or a farm family going down to spend their weekend at the Royal Easter Show with their city family. These outcomes are, of course, heart warming, and we are thrilled to be partly responsible for them having happened.
Although, for us it is the untold stories that are probably more valuable – the look on a child’s face as they hold their first really fresh warm egg, or the look of surprise as they get a taste of where milk comes from, or learning first hand as they help the farmer care for their land and livestock …
You’re currently recruiting farming and rural families to participate in this year’s FarmDay, which is taking place on 26 – 27 May. What is required of rural and urban participants, and are there any prerequisites for applying?
We are looking for primary producers who are keen to spend a day sharing their lives and work with a city family – farmers who are passionate and knowledgeable about their work and who uphold a high standard of farming practice.
We look for city people who have a genuine interest in how food and fibre is produced. Travelling is a big part of the FarmDay experience, so this unique opportunity is best advantaged by those who are willing to spend a weekend away enjoying not only their day on the farm, but also the region they are visiting. We find that families with school aged children often get the greatest value out of their participation in FarmDay.
It is free to take part in FarmDay, as we are generously sponsored by the Cattle Producers of Australia.
Is your message about what’s involved in putting food on plates and clothes on backs making its way to school aged children?
FarmDay is actually about reconnecting rural and urban Australia but of course, understanding how farmers produce our food and fibre is a large part of that connection. When children make discoveries in a hands-on way, in a new and exciting environment, the memory and experience stays with them forever.
Which areas does FarmDay take place in?
Farmers all across Australia offer to host city families for FarmDay. The reality that most farms are more than three hours from capital cities becomes apparent when you participate in FarmDay. If people live in a regional town or city, chances are there will be a farm closer to them. It is important to remember, however, that FarmDay is not a holiday in itself, but being hosted by an outback FarmDay Family for a day or two can offer a fantastic focal point to a holiday.
How can people get involved with FarmDay?
Both farmers and city visitors can register their interest in FarmDay through our website www.farmday.com.au. The website also answers many commonly asked questions. If anyone’s unable to register online, they can call us on 1300 36 70 36.
Interview by Karen Farrell.