How one Kiwi family is sharing the human side of farming

A family in Hawke's Bay is hoping to bridge the divide between rural and urban Kiwis by sharing videos and photos online of their farming life. 

The Kiwi Country Kids Facebook page was started during the first nationwide lockdown and since then it has continued to grow in popularity, with followers from around the world. 

Creator Sally Newall, who farms in Patoka, inland from Napier, with her husband and three young sons, says the page initially began just as "something for the boys to do and a reason to get out of the house".

"We were doing homeschooling during the mornings and so it just became a good reason to get out and go for a walk on the farm and check on the animals," Newall told Magic Talk's Rural Exchange over the weekend. 

She says her sons - ranging in age from three to eight - had always wanted to start a YouTube channel but she wasn't "particularly keen on that" so suggested a Facebook page, which she would be able to run and monitor in a safe way.

"It just started as a fun thing to do really."

And so far the page has proven to be a hit. Newall says most followers are fellow farmers or ex-farmers, with people from all around the world interested in catching a glimpse of the family's farm life.

As the page's popularity grows, Newall says she hopes she can use the platform to share their world with people who wouldn't normally be exposed to the farming life.

"I would like to grow it to get more people in the cities who aren't on farms following it as well just so they can learn a little bit about what happens on the farm," she says.

Despite New Zealand's history of farming, many Kiwis nowadays have little idea what rural life is actually like. Newall says she hopes the Facebook page can play a role in changing that.

"I think part of that is there's just fewer people on farms these days, it's become very mechanised and you don't need as many workers, so not as many kids are growing up on farms any more. And there's definitely a lack of understanding there from a lot of people, and it's not an intentional lack of understanding, but if you don't grow up on a farm and you don't see it happening first hand it is hard to understand where your food comes from."

And although Newall admits she is "quite careful" about what she puts up, saying "there's a fine line between alienating people and showing the reality of what's going on", with time she aims to put less emphasis on cute and cuddly animals and more focus on the other, often overlooked aspects of the lifestyle. 

"I think it is important to show all sides of farming and help people understand how it all works - to put a human face to it. 

"Because farmers can get such a bad rap in the press that I think it's important that people see that we are actually human, and negative comments and negative press does affect us. Most of us are all trying our best - trying our best to protect the environment while still making a profit and being able to farm."

Newall says one of the more popular aspects of the page is the glimpse into her boys' adventurous childhood.

"I suppose they're growing up in what a lot of kids used to grow up like back in the day," she says.

"They get up to a lot of adventures on the farm."