Caps off to farmers for 40 years’ support
It was a quirky idea – donate a calf to IHC and get a pair of gumboots. But for some reason dairy farmers said, “Count on us”.
And for 40 years IHC has counted on their support to the tune of $40 million, on average $1 million a year.
This year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the IHC Calf & Rural Scheme and the farmers, volunteers and rural businesses who feel so strongly about backing those in their communities who who need support.
The scheme has also caught the imagination of rural-based companies such as long-time sponsors PGG Wrightson, Volkswagen and livestock identification company Allflex.
More than 10,000 farmers have donated calves to the scheme, some of them have donated multiple calves for many years, through thick and thin.
“And when they are asked why they do it, the answer often is, ‘It’s just what you do’,” says IHC National Fundraising Manager Greg Millar. Practically speaking, it has worked for farmers who might be cash poor but happy to raise a calf for IHC along with the rest of their herds.
“We are incredibly grateful to the many farmers who have supported us over the years, some of them down through generations of farming.”
One other farmer stands head and shoulders above everyone else in his support of the fundraising scheme. All Blacks legend Sir Colin Meads became a rural legend when he threw his weight behind IHC after retiring from playing rugby, and we were privileged to have the backing of the big man from 1974, for more than 40 years until his death in 2017.
Long before he became Sir Colin in 2001, he was generous with his name and his fame, using his high profile and mana for the benefit of people with intellectual disabilities.
He was a natural fundraiser and supported the two farmers, Norm Cashmore in Taranaki and Mick Murphy in Blenheim, who started the IHC Calf Scheme in 1982. When the farms got bigger, Colin told the large-herd owners to think about donating even more calves. They did. He also encouraged his fellow beef farmers to join in.
In the 1980s, Sir Colin donated the proceeds of his speaking engagements towards the purchase of a farm in Te Kūiti for people with intellectual disabilities. His idea was to provide employment and teach farming skills. Pinetree Farm became a drop-off point for donated calves on their way to the sales. It’s still used today for local support and residential services.
Sir Colin and Verna, Lady Meads, always worked as a team in their dedication to IHC’s cause and made a huge difference to the lives of many people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Verna died in December last year.
DairyNZ, which has supported the IHC Calf & Rural Scheme for 20 years, has liked having some fun along the way. Lye Farm and Scott Farm, two DairyNZ research and development farms on opposite sides of the road in Hamilton, have for a long time battled it out to see who can raise the heaviest calf.
Like the farm staff rearing the Lye and Scott calves, many others have chosen to give their biggest and best for the benefit of people with disabilities. Others have chosen to buy the calves and rear them on for even larger prices for IHC.
Caption: Heart and soul – Long-time supporter Sir Colin Meads celebrates the 25th birthday of the IHC Calf & Rural Scheme at the IHC Tarr Road farm in Cambridge with staff and people supported by IHC/IDEA Services in Waikato.
This story was published in Strong Voices. The magazine is posted free to all IHC members.
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