Has the divide between city and country ever felt so big?
Amy Gunn doesn’t think so, and so she has taken steps to do something about it. Her ‘Friend a Farmer Initiative’ is designed to bridge the cultural divide by way of transparent and open communication through social media.
Friend a Farmer invites country Australians to share their stories – the good, the bad and the ugly – with those in the city. Likewise, city folk are encouraged to ask questions through the platforms, improving their own knowledge of their rural counterparts and their way of life. Through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Amy facilitates the initiative with photographs and posts designed to start a discussion. The growth has been organic since starting up in January 2015 and she now has more than 5000 followers on Facebook alone. Clearly Amy was not alone in her quest to rekindle the city- country relationship.
Amy herself is a country girl, through and through. An upbringing on the land out at Bollon was followed by boarding school in Warwick and a university education in Brisbane. However, unlike so many rural kids who are lured by a career in the city, Amy’s love of the country was always too strong. She worked for
a number of pastoral companies across northern Australia as a station hand, staff stockman and head stockman, and gained experience working as a livestock officer with Western Local Land Services, and was a regional Landcare facilitator with South West NRM Ltd.
The experience has given her the skills to facilitate agricultural and natural resource based workshops and field days. Amy now resides on a sheep and cattle station near Condonbolin in western New South Wales with her husband Sam. Here she not only manages the property alongside Sam, she runs Friend a Farmer as well as nuturing her love of photography.
Beyond facilitating the social media platforms, Amy has begun an ambitious event program for Friend a Farmer. The entire point of the initiative is to raise awareness of the rural lifestyle, the challenges faced by farmers and to create understanding between city and country. To do this successfully requires funding.
Enthusiasm for the initiative has been met with generosity from many parties, including farmers, ‘city friends’, community groups, the CWA, the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program and ABC Rural. A series of events like art exhibitions and dinners have already been held in city and farming communities – all designed to raise awareness, while raising funds.
The buck doesn’t stop there. Amy wants the initiative to provide remote mental health services via Skype. Amy is doing this with the assistance of her friend, Jess Brownhalls. “Another Bollon girl, Jess studied psychology at Griffith University and has been so supportive of this initiative. I guess this is something that many professional people of my generation that grew up in the country hold close to their hearts.”
The next generation of farmers are coming, and they are ready to talk.
Words by Alice Thompson
Images by Amy Gunn