Northland Inc's Extension 350 has combined with DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ to provide a reference point for farmers battling to respond to the effects of what some claim to be the region's worst drought in years, bringing together a number of farmers who will share their responses to the situation via the Northland Inc website, with weekly updates on their current focus and actions.

"This sector-wide collaboration creates an overview to help farmers prioritise their actions, focus on their farms and manage their wellbeing through this extremely stressful period," Extension 350 (E350) project lead Luke Beehre said.

"E350 is all about providing a network for farmers, and to enable positive things to happen in their businesses and their home lives, so it is vitally important at a time like this that farmers keep talking to each other, to their neighbours, and make sure they support each other and look after themselves.

"One thing we've learned from previously challenging times is don't try to make decisions every day. That way you'll dig yourself into a hole. Make decisions once a week and follow them, unless things change. It's so easy, when the pressure is on, to become too insular; by encouraging people to talk to each other, share their information and stay in touch, we hope we can ease the burden of that pressure."

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Northland Inc CEO Murray Reade praised the resilience of Northland's farmers.

"Obviously we're deeply concerned by the issues facing farmers, but I strongly believe in their resilience. We've seen that before on a regular basis. I would say to the farmers, don't lose sight of how strong you are collectively," he said.

Veronica Gillett, Beef + Lamb NZ's extension manager for the northern North Island, said she was proud to be part of a team that had come together under tight time-lines to assist farmers as the drought continued to "bite deep", with little sign of letting up.

"We believe this collaboration leverages the collective power of our E350 network to improve the support and information offered to the wider farming community," she said.

"I'm proud of everyone involved, mentors, consultants and farmers, who have stepped up to help others and give more of themselves, even when they are under pressure themselves."

DairyNZ regional leader Tareen Ellis said it was hugely important for Northland Inc, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ to pool their resources to be more effective in helping farmers with their decision-making.

"It is crucial that we all work together to deliver a way forward for farmers, and make sure they are fully supported," she said.

For more go to https://www.northlandnz.com/northland-inc/regional-initiatives/extension-350/northland-drought-response, while anyone who needs to talk to someone "who really will understand" is welcome to contact the Rural Support Trust on 0800 787-254, or http://www.rural-support.org.nz/Regions/North-Island/Northland

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