Spotlight on Sarah Jamieson - From Swazi to Farm
In the uncertain times of COVID-19, our farming sector was the backbone of the country. Continuing on through the lockdown and providing the country with one of the few hopes of the economy. Life on the farm during the level 4 lockdown was an interesting mix of emotions for Swazi Garment Technologist, Sarah Jamieson. She along with her husband Rodge farm 700 Fresian cows, on 280 hectares, north of Levin at Himatangi.
After 9 years working at the Swazi World HQ, Sarah had to make a few tough calls, not only for her own future, but that of her family and the farm as everyone continues with this ‘new normal’.
March 22nd we wondered where Covid-19 was heading and thought we had better start making some plans and discussions based on the media coverage as it was starting to get pretty serious.
Firstly we removed our two children (2) and (4) from Daycare.
Swazi organized a staff meeting on the Monday morning to keep everyone informed. I asked if working from home would be an option as one of our kids was classed as ‘high risk’, the answer was Yes, gather your work and get out of dodge. Very relieved and thankful that was the answer! Then the next day, before the rest of the country, the management team at Swazi decided to go into lockdown for all their staff.
Tuesday 24th March Megan our Au Pair made a last minute call to fly home to Australia; we had to support her decision and prepared her as much as we could with gloves, masks and hand sanitizer. (We were thinking it would be fantastic if you stayed!!)
Our bubble was small - Rodge and I, plus the kids. Rodge worked with our staff at the social distancing requirements and communicated via phone. The only place I went to during Level 4 and 3 was the Pharmacy, we stayed clear of the supermarket and had a couple of deliveries which was a fantastic service. Neighbours and Grandparents checked in over the fence which showed the support chain the rural communities have.
The first couple of weeks we were getting mixed messages regarding staff for “next season” which was pretty stressful as we had two leaving mid-May that had signed contracts with their new employer. We were unsure of the timelines to replace them as we were still in the process of visa applications with the recruiting company we use, the information we were getting was it could take up to 6 months. Darn.
With staff pending, au pair gone home, kids un-enrolled from daycare (but loving life!), a farm to run, all the while trying to work for Swazi from home… something had to give and unfortunately I had to make the call to Davey to explain the current situation and that I was unable to give Swazi my 100% work commitment.
The main challenge we had on the farm was receiving supplies. We would place a “normal order” from our farm supply store and only half would turn up due to demand. Animal health products you had to order the exact amount and not everything was available. The farm ute needed serious R&M which was unable to be started for at least 6 weeks due to parts, at the time it felt ridiculous, however we managed!
During the lock down our Maize needed harvesting, and this couldn’t be put on hold. Thankfully Grant Barber and his team completed the whole job including covering the pit which we were extremely grateful for, as we weren’t prepared to break our bubble just yet. The contractors certainly put in the hard yards over that period!
We became quite “Tech Savvy” with online meetings with our Farm Advisor and family members, as financial decisions still needed to be made.
The continuing flow on from Covid-19 that we are seeing is Visas being extended by a few months which is a positive result for us. Some supplies we are still waiting on, however completely understand the circumstances and we learnt to make do during lockdown so we may as well continue!
At the end of the day, to be honest we had a fantastic time as a family! We had everything we needed, and realized as Kiwi farmers, we have a bloody good life! We engaged with our neighbors and exchanged produce like veggies, meat and milk – everyone was happy. Baking skills stepped up a level, homemade crackers using Maize from the paddock (I know, who’d have believed that!), homemade cheese was produced, farm fresh butter was beaten, tins were filled daily! Oh, and thankfully we had made a rather large brew of apple cider from the trees. Just as well, it was well taste tested!