Looking out for each other

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A large bright blue farmer took up residence in a paddock on the corner of Simpsons Bay Road and Bruny Island Main Road, Bruny Island on November 27.

Gazing over the main road, with hand above eyes, the Beyond Blue Farmer is a reminder for the local community of the importance of looking out for each other and to keep talking.

The Blue Farmer’s blue hat, dress and boots were knitted, woven and plaited by community members, using discarded blue baling twine donated by farmers from across Tasmania.

The Bruny Island Blue Farmer is the fourth and latest in Grietje van Randen’s ‘Looking Out For Each Other’ community arts project.

Grietje’s partner Keith, a farmer on Bruny Island, came up with the idea of making a ball out of blue bailing twine, a waste product farmers typically discard.

Keith made a machine that could roll the twine into a large, bright blue ball.

Grietje said she first wanted to knit a blue farmer because her partner’s family had struggled with depression and suicide for generations.

“I would like him [the Blue Farmer] to stand there with his hand above his eyes, looking out,” said Grietje.

“And I would like him to say to people, we all need to look after each other.

“While we’re knitting we can talk to each other.

“The Blue Farmer is a reminder that we all need to look out for each other and keep talking.

“Mental health touches us all.”

Grietje consulted with the Year 1 to 6 children from Bruny Island District School, to find out what the Bruny Island Blue Farmer would look like. 

“I combined the children’s ideas and they were interpreted by the Men’s Shed team,” explained Grietje.

“The Bruny Island Beyond Blue Farmer leans on a fork, has long curly hair, a dog at its side and a bird perched on its shoulder.

“As one young boy told me, ‘a farmer needs a dog because a dog is always there’.

“There are flowers, too, reminding us to take time to notice the good things in life.

“Members of the Bruny Men’s Shed welded and wove the farmer’s metal structures and community volunteers taught the children from Bruny Island District School the skills needed to make the clothing.

“Others across the island community joined in, including people knitting, weaving and chatting as they sat in the waiting room at the Bruny Island Community Health Centre.

“Even the Governor of Tasmania, Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner AC, tried her hand at weaving the blue baling twine during a visit to the island last year.”

Over 120 people gathered to watch school children, teachers, health centre nursing staff and Men’s Shed members install the figure.

Ukulele players accompanied the installation and MC Lee Macefield wove serious mental health messages into the commentary.

Member for Huon, Dr Bastian Seidel MLC, was called upon to assess the health of the Blue Farmer.

The Bruny Island Country Women’s Association provided bags of snacks decorated by local school students and teachers handed apples to the children. 

Pictured above: Bruny Islanders looking out for each other on November 27, when the Blue Farmer was assembled. (PS Chrystal Rose Photography)