Set against the stunning backdrop of the Grampians region, the FARMwell project played host to a series of Working Dog training workshops this year. Each event was a celebration of the unique bond between farmers and their loyal working dogs, with an emphasis on farmers' health and connection in rural areas. Workshops were held within the Northern Grampians, Pyrenees & Ararat Rural City Shire Councils.
The event's purpose was to provide participants with an opportunity to check in on their health and well-being while attending an Ag upskilling opportunity. Held on-farm or within a rural location, the combination of being outdoors and connecting with likeminded people made it an enjoyable and social day out. All participants felt they had gained valuable skills to bring into their daily farming practices and through their health checks an important reminder and way forward of prioritising their own health and wellbeing.
For each of these workshops, seasoned trainer Vin Gedye, led the way. His mission was clear: to help farmers and their trusty canine companions improve their teamwork on the farm. Participant Sally said “the idea of the working dog workshop is actually a fantastic idea. It's something that the majority of farmers have and there are always going to be new ones coming through… and it's something you know they will take the day off [the farm] to attend”. The workshops were hands-on training, with participants bringing their own working dogs along for one-on-one and group sessions with Vin. It was a fantastic opportunity for local communities to come together.
The workshops didn't stop at dog training. The National Centre for Farmer Health partnered to offer free health check-ups to remind everyone of the importance of well-being, so that they can perform their best on the farm. Local farmer Lachlan said it was a “Great opportunity to learn, speak with fellow peers and also just to get a health check that I haven’t had done [since] I can remember.” Local government agencies, health and fitness centre representatives and Active Farmers also joined in to emphasise the significance of encompassing both physical and mental aspects to farmer health.
The Working Dog Training Workshops have been a resounding success. Participants left with newfound skills, a deeper appreciation for the tireless efforts of their working dogs, and a sense of connectedness with their local farming community.
These events involved a coordinated approach made possible through the joint efforts of the property owners, local catering providers, Vin Gedye – Scoriochre Kelpie Stud Breeder, National Centre for Farmer Health, Bendigo Community Bank, the St. Arnaud Agricultural Society and local community members. The events also had council support from the Northern Grampians, Pyrenees & Ararat Rural City Shires. The FARMwell project is a Grampians Public Health Unit initiative.