A global pandemic can't stop Cat Levine from spreading her message of mental wellbeing to Kiwi kids.
Lockdown put an end to last year's Tractor Trek for Gumboot Friday, where manager Levine had hoped to travel 2000km with mental health advocate Mike King.
"March 2020, we started in Bluff, there were about 25 tractors, 36 of us on the team and we were there promoting mental health and Gumboot Friday," Levine told The Country's Jamie Mackay.
The Trek got as far as New Plymouth, before Covid-19 halted proceedings, but this didn't stop Levine, who went on to complete the Waikato and Northland leg of the journey with the Big Feelings Tractor Trek.
"I got the tractors back together. We had 15 of us, we spent two weeks going right up to Cape Reinga and back down again to Auckland and I visited 20 schools, so that was over 5000 school children that I got to visit."
The Trek gave Levine the opportunity to talk to children about developing skills for positive mental health.
Talking to children suited Levine, as she used to be a speaker in primary schools and did shows "all around Auckland". She then moved on to speaking to the corporate sector.
However, professional speaking soon wore thin for Levine, who described herself as someone who liked to have a "fun life."
"Wherever there's fun I like to follow it."
After meeting Mike King, Levine decided to join the Tractor Trek, where a schedule clash provided an opportunity to talk to school children.
"He couldn't speak in the schools as well as to the farmers, because he needed to speak to the farmers during the day as well. So we were a bit gutted that the schools and the children would miss out on the Tractor Trek."
Levine told King about her background speaking to school children and he suggested she give it a go. She thought she'd have a bit of fun for a month then go back to being a "serious speaker."
"But the feedback from the principals and the teachers and the kids was that this was so needed. I'd have kids burst into tears in the audience when I'd talk about their big feelings ...and this was before Covid, before all this anxiety stuff."
Levine used the lockdown to have a good think about the experience, the positive feedback, and her priorities. She said this prompted a "massive turnabout" in her career.
"I thought, look, am I chasing the money and going after corporate speaking or am I going to go where it really matters with the kids in our country?"
Levine had a rural connection as well, she was born Putāruru and her father is a dairy farmer.
"Dairy farming is definitely in my DNA and in my blood."
Levine used her farming background to connect with kids at rural schools, who she found often appreciated her talks a bit more than their city counterparts, who had more resources.
"We've gone to some pretty rural schools. Whangamomona we had 14 children in the whole school roll ... the further rural I go, the more appreciative they are and just feel so grateful that we've gone out of the way to come and visit them."
While it wasn't a particularly cost effective exercise, it was worth it, Levine said.
"It's really where I get the most sense of fulfilment, visiting the rural schools. It's such a different feel in the schools, being out of the city."
Also in today's interview: Levine talked about how Doug Avery's book "The Resilient Farmer," inspired her father use the 2020 Tractor Trek to support rural mental health.
Where to get help:
Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.