Community spirit

Two voluntary groups have a special place in the heart for Geraldine farmer Frances Coles.


HAVING MARRIED INTO dairy farming from a Monday-to-Friday, office-based job, I’ve never taken for granted the flexibility life on the land allows our family.

Sure, there are times when it’s hard to get away and things feel a bit Groundhog Day-ish… but for most of the season, there is room to move and time for personal pursuits.

To combat the sometimes isolating nature of farming, Aaron and I have always tried to stay involved in community groups and activities – be it sporting teams, school boards or voluntary roles.

Two roles in particular hold a special place in my heart.

Meat the Need recently celebrated their third birthday. They’re a great charity that partners with meat processors and dairy companies to turn farmers’ donations of cull animals and milk into neatly packaged products distributed to food banks throughout the country, helping to feed Kiwi families in need.

Bellyful has been around a bit longer – since 2009 – and the branch in Geraldine I’m part of has been cooking meals for local families for the past 11 years. It’s a simple act that means so much to parents of newborns or young children who always appreciate having nutritious meals in the freezer for days that haven’t gone quite to plan.

As a farmer who has donated to Meat the Need, it gives me such a buzz to see their branded meat packs defrosting ready for one of our Bellyful cookathons, and I’m so grateful to the people who connected the two groups for that to happen. It means they can both achieve so much more with donated funds.

Before Meat the Need came on board, mince was one of our Bellyful branch’s largest expenses. With that cost eliminated, we can spread the funds so much further.

The focus for Meat the Need is on connecting farmers who want to support their communities with companies who can turn that donation into a useable good. Partnering with groups like Bellyful (along with others like City Mission and Salvation Army) means donated goods make it to those who truly need them.

I’ve just recently put the call in to our local Silver Fern Farms rep to divert one of our cull cows to Meat the Need, and this Sunday morning I’ll attend our latest Bellyful cookathon. In the not-too-distant future, I’ll answer a group chat calling for someone to deliver meals to a family who are perhaps for the first time coming to grips with life with a newborn.

All these moments provide opportunities to be grateful: to assist others by giving an animal we have already received plenty of value from; living in a community with a desire to look out for each other; and having a job that’s flexible enough that I can go for a drive to deliver meals and offer support to someone who’s perhaps feeling a bit overwhelmed.

If you’d like to experience some of those same feel-good moments, check out Meat the Need and Bellyful’s websites for details on how you can get involved. Trust me when I say from experience that it’s simple and easy, and you won’t regret it!