Former Paralympic blade runner Liam Malone hopes to inspire dairy farmers to stay strong and continue rising above the challenges facing the sector when he speaks at the South Island Dairy Event (SIDE) next month.
The two-day event run by farmers for farmers, with support from DairyNZ, is being held at the ILT Stadium in Invercargill on the 25th and 26th of June. The theme for this year’s event is “Creating Our Tomorrow”.
Malone is among a line-up of diverse speakers, including All Blacks mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka, set to share their experiences and advice with farmers to support them in their commitment to take dairy to the next level.
The double-amputee, who was born with fibular hemimelia, is no stranger to overcoming adversity.
As a teenager, he suffered anxiety and depression and admits he made some bad choices, but his turning point was the death of his mother. Malone decided to take control of his life, and just three years later won two gold medals at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
“I realised you can’t outrun your problems, you need to face them,” he says.
“While the dairy sector has done a good job facing its challenges over the last decade, there continue to be more and understandably this has taken a toll on some farmers. I hope to provide them with tools to help them be more resilient.”
Malone likened the journey dairy farmers are on to that of a marathon, not a sprint. He says while the changes are coming fast, they are constant, and farmers need to be prepared to stay the distance.
“I’m sure at times farmers feel as though they’re in a race to meet all these new regulations and consumer expectations coming at them thick and fast and that the finish line seems a long way off. While I’ve never worked in the dairy sector, I can relate to what they’re going through. But they’ve put in the training and they’re off the starting blocks and that’s half the battle.”
SIDE event chairman Simon Topham says the first day of the event will focus on “Celebrating Today”, while the second day will look at “Investing in Tomorrow”.
“This year’s SIDE is all about celebrating farmers sheer grit and drive to constantly do better by their people, cows and environment. The sector has come a long way in a relatively short timeframe and farmers have a lot to be proud of. SIDE is an opportunity for farmers to get together, celebrate their wins and discuss the future of dairy,” he says.