“The Long Weekend” – Frances Coles shares the joys of lockdown on the farm.

There’s really only one piece of news that’s been dominating our lives over the past few months – Covid 19 – and I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing about it. So let’s just acknowledge it needs a mention, due to the enormity of its impact on people all over the world, but not spend too long rehashing what’s already been said and written.
In an effort to keep a positive spin on it, I chose to refer to lockdown as “The Long Weekend”, much to the amusement of my Instagram followers who checked in with my daily updates on the lighter side of life at home way more than any of us would ideally like.
However, I think it’s safe to say all of us who are privileged to live on farms were grateful for the extra space to roam, the ability to get outside and do something meaningful, and the chance to work together as a family unit at times. I know we weren’t the only ones to get all the family members involved with essential jobs like milking or weighing and drenching young stock.
In fact, the youngest member of our family loved the opportunity to be a farmer on a daily basis! The phrase “pig in mud” was used more than once to describe how she felt about “The Long Weekend” in comparison with her older sisters who equated it to something more like being stuck on a deserted island.
Katie has always enjoyed getting out on the farm with Aaron or me, but this pandemic and our country’s response to it gave her a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really bed in her passion for all things agricultural.
Once distance learning resumed for a Term Two unlike any other in New Zealand’s history, the best I could negotiate with her was staying home for the day (or more likely part of it) on Tuesdays and Thursdays when her teacher had organised whole-class Google Meets. Other than that it was workwear and gumboots on and out the door with a packed lunch in one hand and iPod to record the day’s adventures in the other.
This wasn’t just a case of enjoying getting to spend a day with dad on the farm – all the girls appreciate that – Katie was fully bitten by the farming bug much deeper than I had ever witnessed before.
She could rattle off details of which mobs of stock needed moving at each runoff; regaled us with her adventures of getting ever closer to the ‘Big Daddy Bull’ running with our Angus herd (although she still hasn’t actually made it into the same paddock he’s in); single-handedly helped her Dad drench whole mobs of calves; and dazzled even our contract milkers with her in-depth knowledge of the feed requirements of heifers transitioning to fodder beet.
I fully realise I have my proud-parent rose-tinted glasses on here but I would actually take a bet that our youngest daughter will one day become a farmer. While all rural children seem to go through phases of loving being on the farm for varying periods of time it’s always been top of Katie’s list of chosen professions, with anything else that ever gets a mention only viewed as a side hustle of sorts.
I wonder how many other children around the country had their passion for the outdoors and working with animals fired up in recent months as they enjoyed what felt to them like a second summer holiday break? And I wonder how we can generate that same sense of excitement in the lives of many Kiwis looking once again at our industry as a possibility for a rewarding way to earn a living and contribute to our country’s economic recovery whilst feeding the world? What an opportunity we have ahead of us!