WHEN 80 per cent of the Delite Mandarins crop at Nutrano’s main farm in Red Cliffs was destroyed by hail in January 2021, the true extent of devastation left its owners – Nutrano Producers Group – doubly stunned.

Nutrano’s executive general manager, farming operations, Tania Chapman, says it was the expressions on the faces of the team responsible for the mandarins that most hit home.

Tania said that because most of the staff involved with working on the trees lived in the area, they were forced to confront the damage every day.

Damage, she says, that started to tell on those who had worked long and hard for almost 10 years to help make the crop a success story for the business.

“Believe me, it really matters, and it really mattered in that January,” Tania said.

“We soon realised we didn’t just want to limit this support to our staff, because of its very nature, farming is a high-risk way to make a living.

“While we knew we would come out the other side, farmers and farm workers have to deal with all the ups and downs of the industry – and the hailstorm is a classic example of what can go so suddenly and so destructively wrong,” she says.

“The work we were then doing to help any staff who might need it, was then converted almost as a natural extension to a wider community – we were asking ourselves how can we reach people with what we do, and how can we help even more people in regional and rural Victoria?”

And the answer was relatively easy – find a group doing its very best to support so many people, and the partnership with the Black Dog Institute through #PlateForAMate was born.

#PlateForAMate is a community awareness campaign now in its third year, raising funds for the Black Dog Institute. This year the focus is on supporting the mental health of our farmers, and people in regional areas devastated by recent natural disasters.

The Institute’s work has shown 68 per cent of Australians in rural and regional areas have experienced depression and anxiety during the past two years, with 26 per cent of those patients having to wait as long as 4-6 weeks to access support.

“Those are massive wellbeing numbers, and that’s not good enough,” Tania says.

“So we are looking at opportunities, ones in which we can help reach people – such as the 24-hour support phone service we now provide staff and their families. Now, through this campaign we will be helping The Black Dog Institute reach even more people too,” she says.

Tania says with its hugely successful Delite Mandarins brand celebrating its first decade, the company had been casting around for a worthwhile community project with which to share the celebration as sees #PlateForAMate and The Black Dog Institute as a “very good match”.

All the information on the #PlateForAMate campaign and details of how to donate to The Black Dog Institute can be found at www.plateforamate.com.

The article was first published by Sunraysia Daily, you can find the original here.