With a new season getting underway and the busy calving period in full swing, the idea of taking time off can feel like a far-fetched dream. But thanks to Farm Source and Farmtask, six lucky farmers will get the chance to do just that early next year.
We all know how important and beneficial it is for our health and wellbeing to take time away from the farm, but organising reliable cover can be a headache, to say the least. That’s why, as part of the calving campaign this year, Farm Source have teamed up with Farmtask, who provide staff cover, management solutions and comprehensive relief services for dairy farm operators throughout the country.
The Farm Source "Win a Week Off" promotion runs until November and there are six relief packages to be won – one for each region. Every $500 spent on calving supplies at Farm Source before 30 November 2021 gives you an entry into the draw. The prize will see an experienced independent contractor look after your farm for a period of seven days, (up to a maximum of 60 hours). The value of each prize is about $3,000.
Farmtask is owned and run by Taranaki’s Cheval Graham, who had the idea of a service that covers the day-to-day running of a dairy farm to a professional standard, giving farmers the ease of mind during the busy spells, the unexpected injury, or that holiday you have been waiting for. Farmtask also have a rigorous Health and Safety programme and take care of all the Health and Safety requirements on farm.
As a National Manager for Farmtask, Merv Martin travels the country stepping in to take over the day-to-day running of dairy farms. He’s been working for Farmtask for 12 months. With decades of on farm experience and know-how, Merv is the reliable pair of hands you’d want running your farm if you couldn’t be there, and he’ll be the independent contractor doing the mahi for the six prize winners of the Farm Source promotion.
Based in Hawke’s Bay, Merv has been farming most of his life. “I’ve been farming in my own right since 1986. I started off sharemilking when I was young and worked my way through to farm ownership. And then I got into bull-beef farming in Hawke’s Bay. Then I went back to dairy farming and worked for eight years for a large dairy farm in Culverden, North Canterbury, the final five years as operation manager there. That’s basically my background,” he says.
Merv reckons he has the best of both worlds. Being an experienced farmer, he gets paid to do what he does best, but he gets the freedom to choose when that is. The work/ lifestyle balance aspect of working for Farmtask is hugely appealing to Merv. And the money he earns helps fund his hobbies. “I can generally make the jobs work around what I want to do or I can organise my lifestyle and the interests I’ve got around work,” says Merv.
It marks quite a change from his previous roles. The impact of work on his leisure time was one of the reasons Merv left his operations manager job. “I’d have my phone on me even on my days off and I used to get up to 70 phone calls a day. It was just all consuming. So things have changed quite dramatically. These days, sometimes my phone doesn’t ring,” he says.
Merv owns and breeds a few race horses, has an AI run in North Canterbury, plays guitar and likes to keep fit. “I enjoy doing ten kilometer runs and things like that. So when I get time I like to do those sorts of things and working with Farmtask allows me the time off to do that.”
Merv says financially the Farmtask work is also rewarding. “We’re providing a service that’s in demand so that allows us to charge what we’re worth.” He prefers the longer jobs and typically takes the reigns when a farm is between managers. “It’s more likely to be when the manager is sick or the manager’s been dismissed or something and they’re looking for someone to step in and run the ship. It’s often for several weeks and up to six weeks.”
The last gig Merv did was a 6-week job, “I went up there stepping into a farm manager role and ran it through dry off with one staff member. And then they recruited a new manager. So we just got them out of a bit of pickle – through a period where they will caught short,” he says.
Merv jokes that he seems to spend a lot of time sorting out electric fences and cleaning up cow sheds. But it’s clear that for a farmer in need of staff help, having a safe pair of hands who can hit the ground running is invaluable. “It gives them [farmers] confidence – if they’ve got somebody to step in with my experience and references. You can imagine that as some of these manager jobs go a little bit toes up, the managers have sort of neglected some of the detail. It’s part of my background as an ops manager job – that job was all about sorting out problems.”
Unsurprisingly, Merv often finds himself being asked to stay on permanently after a Farmtask job winds up. “Yes, you end up getting offered jobs all over the country,” he laughs. But Merv isn’t looking for a full-time job. “I’ve got too many other interests keeping me busy.”
Merv says things are changing in the dairy industry and people are finally recognising the importance of having time off. “Within the dairy industry, it hasn’t always been the case in the past, but I think people are more interested in lifestyle so they’re demanding their time off and that’s why there’s such a bright future for relief staff,” he says.
From staff cover, seasonal contracts, to relief labour and full farm management and everything in between. Farmtask is simplifying labour and pairing work-ready farmers with the farms that need them. Whether you are an experienced dairy farmer looking for rewarding roles or a farmer seeking some time off farm or staff cover for your dairy operation – Farmtask can help.