Cou­ple plants seeds of friend­ship for farm­ers

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - Front Page - CASSANDRA GLOVER Cassandra.glover@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

AMY Gunn is help­ing to bridge the gap be­tween farm­ers and city folk, start­ing with the younger gen­er­a­tion.

The Pen Pal Pro­ject, part of the Friend a Farmer ini­tia­tive, con­nects farm kids with kids liv­ing in met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas.

Mrs Gunn lives on a sheep, cat­tle and fod­der cul­ti­va­tion prop­erty near Con­dobolin in New South Wales with her hus­band Sam and two chil­dren, Max, 3 and Fred­die, 1.

She started the Friend a Farmer Ini­tia­tive on Face­book more than four years ago, in an at­tempt to ed­u­cate peo­ple about farm life, and build a con­nec­tion be­tween the city and coun­try.

“I was do­ing pro­files of farm­ing fam­i­lies and let­ting them talk about what they do, and let­ting peo­ple see the hu­man side of them,” Mrs Gunn said.

“All the fam­i­lies that did it were happy to be con­tacted on Face­book. It gives peo­ple the op­tion to con­tact a farmer.

“So many city peo­ple said they loved the idea of it and would love to have a friend who is a farmer and be able to visit a farmer, but they’d lost that con­nec­tion.”

The Pen Pal Pro­ject came about when Mrs Gunn was con­tacted by a teacher at a school in By­ron Bay.

“She (the teacher) was say­ing her kids wanted to help farm­ing kids,” Mrs Gunn said,

“And in­stead of ask­ing for food or clothes or any of that, I thought what a great op­por­tu­nity to get th­ese kids to de­velop re­la­tion­ships with farm­ing kids and get them re­con­nect­ing again.”

Mrs Gunn said she put a post on Face­book ask­ing if any chil­dren on farms would be in­ter­ested in the pro­ject, and the re­sponse was over­whelm­ing.

“I’ve had farm kids from Western Aus­tralia right across to the east coast want­ing to join in,” she said.

“So I’ve been try­ing to match up ev­ery farm kid with a city pen pal.

“I’ve part­nered up with a few other city schools, as well as some fam­i­lies that wanted to get in­volved.”

Mrs Gunn said ad­dresses have been handed out and let­ter writ­ing has started in the past week.

“I was hop­ing to get it all started by the start of the New South Wales term,” she said.

“I’ve had a fair bit guilt in­volved be­cause I’ve been so flat out with the drought thing.

“I would like to do­nate a lot more time to it. I had hun­dreds and hun­dreds of mes­sages.

“But I’m on top of it now!”

Mrs Gunn made the de­ci­sion to use phys­i­cal let­ters as op­posed to emails.

“Mail day is an ex­cit­ing time for farm kids,” she said.

“And kids get to prac­tise their read­ing and writ­ing as well.

“The most re­fresh­ing thing in deal­ing with the kids in this pro­gram is they don’t have any pre-set ideas and they want to learn.”

While Mrs Gunn’s own chil­dren are too young to

❝ While the drought has been on you re­alise how re­silient kids are.

— Amy Gunn

be­come pen pals just yet, she said she is glad they can en­joy life on the farm.

“Max is right into ev­ery­thing and I’m so grate­ful for the life I have out here,” she said.

“While the drought has been on you re­alise how re­silient kids are.

“Es­pe­cially some of the kids that are more aware of what’s go­ing on.

“Hav­ing the kids around has been re­ally good in what has been a re­ally s--t time.”

To get in­volved, visit the Friend a Farmer ini­tia­tive page on Face­book.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Friend a Farmer foundersSam and Amy Gunn with their two sons Max, 3, and Fred­die, 1.

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