An open letter written by a "latte-sipping" Aucklander has struck a chord with farmers.
Source: 1 NEWS
Matt Shirtcliffe was compelled to show his support for the farming community after hearing the news six young farmers had lost their lives recently.
"Dear Farmers," he wrote on Facebook. "I'm sitting here in my city office sipping my first of several lattes, and thinking of you.
"This should be a time of peace and joy throughout the land. But for many on the land right now, this is a time of deep pain and sorrow. Six of your own have died... over the last month alone. And they were all young, with a life full of promise.
"Although I'm just another latte-sipping Aucklander, actually I give a damn. One life lost, is one too many. Six is an epidemic that's hard to comprehend. It's not just those precious lives that have ended. It's the impact on the families, farm workers, and rural communities left behind to try and deal with what's happened and pick up the pieces as best they can."
Mr Shirtcliffe told 1 NEWS many farmers worked incredibly hard, but felt a lack of gratitude and bore the brunt of blame for issues such as water use and emissions.
"All they read and hear is the down side of farming. It's a really, really demanding job. The vast majority of all farmers are responsible and try to do the right thing."
The letter continued: "Of course, we never stop and thank you for the milk for our lattes, the cream for our strawberries, the steak for our summer barbecues. We never choose to see or believe the care you have for your land, or the work that goes into providing exactly what we need.
"So I want to say thank you to the farmers like you who do a bloody hard job, bloody well. No matter how tough it gets out there, please remember that even if you start to feel worthless, your life is a very precious thing. It's worth a s**t-tonne more than your farm will ever be."
He said part of the inspiration for the letter was his late-wife.
"I lost of my wife to suicide in 2015," he said. "We live in the city but she had been a farmer. I guess it has given me empathy for farmers and empathy for anyone struggling like she struggled with depression."
Mr Shirtcliffe said the feedback from the letter had been very humbling, with thousands responses from farmers as far away as the United States.
Helen Adcock commented on the post: "Thank you for recognising the hard work, sweat, tears (sometimes) and sleep-deprivation of us hard working farmers. Most of us do it because we care about our land and love our animals"
He said a societal disconnect between city and country could be impacting many New Zealanders' knowledge of what it takes to produce the food on the table.
"As far as city people go, I probably know a lot more about farming… but still the point remains I'm a city guy with a city job and it just struck me, I was just there sipping a latte," he said.
"It's just important to stay connected to where your food comes from," Mr Shirtcliffe said. "If we can make and effort to bridge that gap then we'll start to understand farmers more, and that can only be a good thing."
Mr Shirtcliffe has previously spoken publicly about mental health.
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