Thinking outside the farm gate

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Arable farmer David Clark shifting breaks with eldest sons, Sam, at left, and James.

By David Clark

Well, here we are again, back in lockdown, albeit at this point into Level 3 for areas outside of Auckland.

Some would say that spring time on a farm is much like a lockdown anyway, we are all too busy working everyday to have any social life!

Covid-19, particularly the Delta variant, is a significant health risk to all of us and demands the highest level of response to protect ourselves, our families and our communities.

Farmers are no different and while we have had exemptions, and rightfully so, to continue to operate and look after our livestock and plant our crops as essential food producers, we should not look past the health threat that covid is and not only jeopardise our exemption regime, but our own health.

The difficulty we will encounter will be if covid started to circulate in the farming community or in our processing facilities. The Ministry of Health will look beyond the economic impacts when forcing farmers to isolate. Please give that some thought with regards to contingencies within your own business.

But all of this does also pose some questions, we have enjoyed relative freedom with no Level 3 or 4 lockdown in the South Island for over a year, and other than a couple of blips, near the same for North Island.

So, what did we do to prepare for the inevitable re-introduction of covid into New Zealand given the infectiousness of the Delta variant? Why is our vaccine programme trailing the OECD? What has been done to increase the hospital and ICU capacity given the scenes of overwhelmed hospitals overseas?

If a single case in Auckland justified a nationwide lockdown with six hours notice, why did we continue to allow travellers to arrive from NSW when covid was circulating un-contained in Sydney? Why did we have a public walkway alongside an outdoor area of an MIQ facility and why was the Atrium of that MIQ hotel partially open to public access? This lockdown is that price we pay for questions such as these.

My advice is to take Covid-19 seriously, this disease poses a significant risk to your health and those around you.

Put your protocols in place to meet the requirements of whatever the level of restriction we are in and settle into a routine.

Focus on the basics on farm and regard anyone who comes on to your farm as potentially infected.

Look at the lockdown as a marathon and settle into a stride, we might be in this for a long period of time.

Look out for your neighbours, a yarn, at a distance over the fence is more important than ever as folk begin to feel very isolated.

We also have our awesome little people on farm helping out while school is closed. Their safety is the most important thing you can look out for today.