FMG clients used their passion, resources and skills to support the country through Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.

Sheep and beef farmers turn TV stars

Heartfelt thanks shared during lockdown turned Rangitikei sheep and beef farmers, Richard Lourie and his sons Josh and Hayden into TV stars.

The Louries were among several others who were compelled to thank the wider food supply chain, like meat processers and truck drivers for the part they played in keeping the country fed. FMG helped to bring the video together—’An essential shout out to all those helping to feed New Zealand’—and shared it on social media.

No-one expected that TVNZ would pick up the video and play it as an advertisement for free—or that it would be shown during prime time viewing, exposed to hundreds and thousands of viewers!

In his part of the video Richard explains: “We knew a fellow who was getting up at 2am and heading off for his day as he always does, to do his bit and yeah, that’s cool.”

Richard himself was facing his own challenges, including drought and managing the fact that only half his lambs could be taken by the meat works during lockdown. Despite this and his initial reluctance to appear on camera, Richard and his boys stepped up.

“A challenge for us was you couldn’t even send one lamb over your number to the works because they'd send it back. We were very grateful that they were taking as many lambs as they could, because we were already faced with drought and the slow down and congestion in kill from when China closed and other markets slowed. If they (the meat processors) had completely stopped we'd have been heading for some major animal welfare issues.”

There when we need it most

In the space of a day, Ben Leggett moved from distilling gin to producing hand sanitiser just as New Zealand needed it most. Ben and business partner Simon Kelly own Marlbrough-based Elemental Distillers where they make a single premium dry gin built from seasonally sourced New Zealand botanicals.

“As a gin distillery we already had stocks of high strength, gin scented alcohol as a bi-product of our distilling runs.”

Ben says supporting local essential businesses like the medical centres during lockdown while also helping to generate cash flow was a no-brainer.

As Elemental Distillers were ahead of the curve in sanitiser production it was inundated with orders from all over the country.

I’m sure we all recall in the early stages of Covid-19 the lack of hand sanitiser available to buy.

Very quickly the team learnt about the legal requirements to release a hazardous rated cosmetic product, within a food-grade environment.

“Thanks to assistance from my wife, Louisa, we were largely able to stay on top of the hundreds of daily email orders.”

“Knowing we were supplying an essential product to essential services at a time of national crisis is an exciting, stressful but overall incredible experience. The response from those we were able to support and the way the community came together in support of each other was humbling,” says Ben.

Customer cheese cravings met by online service

When the lockdown brought Jill and Adrian Woolcroft’s cheese making business to a complete standstill, like many of our rural community members, the couple didn’t give up. Instead, they looked for a way to sell their product differently.

Jill and Adrian have run Cartwheel Creamery, based in the Pohangina Valley since 2014. They make several styles of cheese with both cow and goat milk, ranging from soft white-mould, soft washed rind, blue, semi-hard European, feta and halloumi.

The cow’s milk is sourced from local grass-fed Jersey cross and Friesian herds and the goat’s milk is collected from a Saanen herd in Opiki.

“We’d built up our cheese stock in preparation for several major events through March and April. The Central Districts Field Days, two trade exposand several festivals, in addition to our regular markets.

Then these were all cancelled. Wholesale orders dried up as restaurants, cafes and delis closed their doors. We were faced with an abundance of cheese all happily maturing its way towards a rather limited shelf-life,” says Jill.

It was then that the couple established their online shop. Within a couple of weeks of lockdown starting they were able to re-connect with their retail customers and a limited number of wholesale customers—even when in the higher levels of the lockdown.

It was a real highlight to set up the online shop. “It was something we should have done a long time ago, and although it was a high priority for us before the lockdown, the situation certainly gave us a strong push,” says Jill.

Now Cartwheel Creamery has the best of both worlds—with online and community markets.

Flowers for essential workers

Pukekohe growers Suzette and Frans van Dorsser from Blooming Hill Flowers say they were beautifully reminded during lockdown why they’re in the industry.

Classified as a non-essential service the van Dorssers were unable to sell any of their roses and gerberas for the domestic cut flower market.

So what happened to the business during lockdown? Firstly, the couple say they were deeply moved by the dedication, loyalty and commitment of their staff to help keep their crop in good shape.

“We asked for volunteers to go into quarantine with us on the property to create a ’work bubble’ and our staff did that for us so that we wouldn’t lose our crops,” says Suzette.

The flowers, the van Dorssers decided, would be donated. “We donated to essential front-line workers, such as hospital staff and the police force, and to retirement villages and doctor’s offices to be distributed to patients,” says Suzette.

“Sometimes you forget the ’why’ in what you do for a living and we were reminded in the most rewarding way possible that people love our product and that it brings great joy.

All of us are reinvigorated with passion for the product since we have seen the impact it made during the lockdown. We don’t normally witness the direct result of our efforts and this time we did.

“This chaotic situation forced us to constantly regroup and brainstorm solutions for the immediate issues—it was stressful but we remained calm and consistent and we are proud of the resilience that everyone showed,” says Suzette.