Getting off farm, but taking the likes of Covid-19 into account, is part of the new normal for Trish Rankin and her family.

The importance of getting a break from the farm has never been more real than now. With two Covid years behind us and ‘normal times’ seeming to be forever changed, a new normal of what getting a break from the farm looks like might need to stick around a bit longer than we thought!

Like others this summer, we have been making the most of what ‘local’ can offer with the challenges of farming meaning getting away off the farm for a break has been tricky.

Whether it be staffing, farm requirements, the worries of travelling away with Covid conditions or just other ties and responsibilities, we have been determined to make the most of what ‘local’ can offer us.

The farm had great rain in December, crops were going gangbusters, cow production was steady and mating had (we hope) gone well.

While the farm definitely needs rain, the benefit is that the beach has been a great place to go between or after milkings for a quick dip.

We went into the festive season with good grass cover and finally got some supplements made and in the bunker. So it was time to get off-farm and find what we could do for mini-breaks off-farm that were local. We haven’t been disappointed.

We have mountain-biked at Mangamahoe mountain bike park, walked many times on Mt Taranaki’s numerous trails, camped in the back yard and swum regularly at the local beach.

With our two older kids as lifeguards and younger kids involved in Junior surf, there haven’t been many days where we haven’t been at the beach for some surf lifesaving club-related activity.

While the farm definitely needs rain, the benefit is that the beach has been a great place to go between or after milkings for a quick dip. Our Christmas and Boxing Days were spent milking and at the beach.

Our kids were on lifeguard duty, and while Christmas day wind made it pretty miserable, Boxing Day was busy. It was so great to have a Christmas lunch of ham off-the-bone sandwiches and a box of chocolates instead of eating too much and wondering how we were going to survive milking that afternoon!

We have had best friends come to camp at ours for New Year. This has been a tradition for many years and this year’s theme was Las Vegas Pool Party! We dress up, have themed food and cocktails and dance the night away. When I got in from milking that morning, they had made brekkie and we all went and walked around Lake Rotokare reserve.

January has been a mix of milking, catching up with friends, and snatching time off farms when we could. A highlight was a community water activity day where a group of the Awatuna/Auroa Farming for the Future catchment group, funded by MPI and run with the help of Taranaki Catchment Communities, held a day where the community could come along and learn about all the different types of water testing and participate in some community-led insect investigation.

The kids had a ball with a net and a white container, catching water bugs and checking out the water clarity and other water testing techniques. The adults watched on and learnt about their streams too. It was two hours well spent, and finished with a BBQ.

Our Taranaki summer theme though has been “Connect and Explore Local”. When getting ‘off-farm isn’t practical for days on end, getting off-farm in between milkings can be. Hopefully by the time you read this you have had rain, crops are going well, cows are milking consistently and you have had some time off-farm – even if for just a little bit to connect and explore local.