When dairy farmer Rachel Numan started writing Tractor Dave children’s books for her sons, it soon turned into a positive initiative giving back to Kiwi communities nationwide.
Tractor Dave is a colourful character having adventures on a dairy farm. Rural children get to see their lifestyle in the books, and Rachel hopes to inspire children from towns and cities to consider farm life. A portion of the proceeds from the books go to charity.
Rachel is also involved in a wide range of local community and environmental initiatives in Pokuru, where she farms with husband Chris – between Te Awamutu and Pirongia.
“I love working with family, neighbours and community groups – we achieve so much more working together,” says Rachel.
For every copy of the first Tractor Dave book sold, Rachel donates 50 cents to the charity Meat the Need. The charity supplies meat and milk donated by Kiwi farmers to food banks and community organisations nationwide.
“It’s great contributing to a positive initiative that’s making a real difference in people’s lives.” Meat the Need was founded by dairy farmers Siobhan O’Malley and Wayne Langford, to help families in need.
For every copy of the second book sold (Tractor Dave – Digger Disaster), a native tree is planted on the Numans’ farm – to help protect waterways and enhance native birds and insect biodiversity.
“I’ve been inspired by nature and conservation since I was young and hope my story might inspire others to get involved in their own communities.
Rachel and Chris call their sons Jack, six, and Oscar, four, tiny farmers, so have their eyes firmly fixed on progressing a positive future for dairy farming and New Zealand.
“All Kiwis want their children to grow up in a healthy environment and supportive communities,” says Rachel.
The Numans pay the Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society to help plant trees on their farm, with over 5000 planted so far. Another 1000 will be planted every year. The couple donate to the society to support work to protect native kōkako on Pirongia mountain.
The Numans also receive trees from Trees that Count, a charity that matches seedlings gifted by Kiwis to planting projects nationwide. The goal is to strengthen projects in every corner of New Zealand – from community groups, schools, iwi, hapū and whānau projects to local councils and farms.
Rachel says many farmers get involved in local communities because they want to see them thrive. “Farming can be isolating so it’s great to get out and develop strong community connections. I find the more I give, the more I get back.”
The Numan farm lies between Mt Pirongia and Mt Kakepuku in the Waipā district. Rachel volunteers with the Kakepuku Mountain Conservation Society to re-stock bait-lines on the mountain several times a year, as part of the pest management programme.
A goal is to ensure the native birds and chicks are safe during nesting, so the bird population continues to grow. Native birds on Mt Kakepuku include tūī, kererū and North Island robins.
“Going up the mountain makes me feel really connected to my community. It’s great for me – I’m out in nature, enjoying the beauty of the bush and getting exercise!”
Ensuring there’s never a dull moment, Rachel helps run the Pirongia Playcentre. She works alongside other parents and teachers to ensure the playcentre runs smoothly. Alongside other parents, Rachel attends playcentre sessions eight hours a week.
“Many of my friends are playcentre mums – you get great friends from getting off the farm and into your community!”
Rachel made the move to farming after seven years as a vet in Te Awamutu, where she worked mainly with dairy cows. “I highly recommend both careers – it’s perfect if you love animals and being outdoors.”
For her next venture, Rachel is developing a small flower farm to trial different methods of improving soil health. Part sustainability science experiment, part relaxation, it’s also just because she loves flowers!
Rachel says she gets so much out of all her activities and shares what she learns with her children. She strongly encourages others to get in touch with their local community and environment groups and get involved.