Tractor Trek geared to help rural youth

Mike KingMike King learned a long time ago that nothing ever happens until somebody acts. That is why he started the charity I AM HOPE, a support group promoting positive change around youth mental health. Their Gumboot Friday event fundraises to provide timely help, including counselling, for young people when they need it.

Mike reckons he has talked to more than 200,000 kids in 7 years. He loves the work and is motivated by his own experience.

"I don't want anyone to go through the self-doubt I had as a kid which developed into low selfesteem and self-loathing." 

Farmlands and I AM HOPE wish to foster more conversations about mental health this autumn. Expanding on the successful Gumboot Friday initiative, a Tractor Trek involving 20 "kitted out" tractors will travel nearly 2,000 kms from Invercargill to Kaitaia. Mike and a  team of counsellors will be going the distance throughout March, parking up at 12 Farmlands stores along the way.

The Trek aims to increase awareness of Gumboot Friday and ultimately raise $5 million to provide free counselling sessions for Kiwi youth.

"Our Gumboot Friday Fund has had many requests from kids in small towns and rural New Zealand. One of the reasons we're doing this Trek is to let families in those regions know that they're not alone. We can help them. "Last year we rode scooters and as we went through rural areas people kept coming up to me and saying what about us? And I said, don't worry we won't forget you," Mike recalls. 

At each Farmlands stop there will be gumboot games, a BBQ, special footwear deals and opportunities to donate. One lucky child will get the chance to win gumboots for their whole class – in time for Gumboot Friday.

At each event, participants will hear from the 2019 New Zealander of the Year himself.

"For almost every kid I speak to, I'm probably the only adult they've ever seen who's willing to talk openly about my many flaws.

"Young people are aware of their mental health and many want help. Unfortunately, the cost of doing that privately is prohibitive and the wait for a state-funded psychologist can take weeks. That's where Gumboot Friday can help," he says.

Farmlands joins other I AM HOPE partners supporting the Trek, including Skellerup, The Warehouse Group, FarmSource, Independent Brands and TR Trucks.

"A co-operative acts for its members and that's why it's vital that talk about wellbeing turns to action," Farmlands Chief Executive Officer Peter Reidie says.

"Kids are the future of food and fibre; they will steer the country's course and be the backbone of Farmlands in years to come. An act as simple as wearing gumboots can help save the lives of youngsters who are struggling and reduce the stigma of asking for help.

"We're jumping in, boots and all, on the Tractor Trek and Gumboot Friday this year and I'm hopeful we will see a major ripple effect. We want to make a difference and we are confident our shareholders and customers will want to help too," Peter says.

Find more details about the Trackor Trek here.

Make a donation on your Farmlands Card in-store all of March and on Gumboot Friday, 3rd April.
Pick up a new pair of gumboots: $4 from every sale will go to I AM HOPE.