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Big Ball showcases sector unity

Big Ball showcases sector unity

Young rural professionals, foresters, fishers and farmers seized the opportunity to relax and raise awareness for rural mental health at The Big Ball at Lincoln University over Matariki weekend.

Future Farmers NZ and Rural Change organised the ball, which took place on June 29, in partnership with Future Foresters, Young Fish, The Food and Fibre Youth Network, and Tasman and Pendarves Young Farmers.

Event co-organiser and Future Farmers board member Eve McCallum noted that it was a unique opportunity to unite various farming groups.

"It's not often in the primary sector that you get that sort of cross-group collaboration, and everyone comes together for one event."

McCallum said that, due to the divide in the rural sector and the differing views of political parties, there was a lack of consensus and collaboration in the primary industry.

"People aren't united, so we wanted to show from the younger groups in the industry that you can collaborate and that it's an awesome tool to get in the room together."

The Black and Gold cover band from Christchurch provided the entertainment, and Federated Farmers president Wayne Langford and Associate Minister for Agriculture Mark Patterson were special guests and speakers on the night.

110 people attended the event, which raised $4500 for the Rural Support Trust.

McCallum said that while the money they raised wasn't a huge amount, it was a start, and if it goes to funding a few counselling sessions for farmers, the event organisers will be "stoked".

"We decided that the Rural Support Trust was a fantastic charity that needed money.

"It's an incredibly tough time in our industry for many different reasons, and they do amazing work supporting farmers across the country in droughts, as well as the work they did up north with the flooding."

The ball also had mental health benefits for those who attended as an off-farm break.

Having grown up on a dairy farm in Northland, McCallum understands how isolating and stressful farming can be and the importance of time out.

"The opportunity to come off the farm and get together for a night and have a bit of fun – the power of that can't be underestimated."

By Claire Inkson