Naked ambition stripped back

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

In a project spearheaded by Countryman, farmers from Ogilvie to Esperance and almost everywhere in between ripped off their flannel shirts to pose in a charity calendar to raise money for the Regional Men's Health Initiative (RMHI).

The aim is to raise $100,000 for the well-known charity, which promotes the importance of men's mental and physical health, and with the calendar set to be launched at the Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days, the 39 male models are already bracing for more than a few friendly taunts.

It all started back in 2011 after a Countryman front page photo featured a particularly handsome young Narembeen farmer inspecting his crops.

According to Countryman editor Lara Ladyman, that photo sparked an stunning response from the paper's female readers.

"The unofficial feedback we received was that our readers - at least the female ones - wanted to see more of the State's good-looking growers," she said. "We also wanted to do something to show our support for our readers, many of whom were doing it tough because of a string of difficult seasons."

The decision was then made to produce a men's calendar and raise money for RMHI, which had been a crucial support to men and their communities during the previous year's drought.

With a veritable bevy of brawn to choose from, it was then up to the Countryman team to narrow down the list of modelling contenders to almost 40 of WA farming's finest.

The models included West Coast Eagles player Quinten Lynch, whose family farms at Grass Patch, and former Fremantle Docker Robbie Haddrill, now the Glencore Grain State manager.

The duo braved a brisk May morning to pose among hay but they were not the only ones to suffer for their art.

The farmers were asked to pout more, flex harder and work their moves, all while enduring the at times adverse conditions.

On a blustery and cold April morning, the four Narembeen models were blasted with freezing water by an over enthusiastic local firefighter, while at Lake King the models suffered through 12C temperatures covered in little else but soap suds.

The calendar's Mr Januarys were keen to express their discomfort during their afternoon photo shoot, which involved posing in an icy dam for a good couple of hours.

Regardless of the slippery, smelly mud and sheep droppings floating by, the Ogilvie and Northampton farmers resolutely continued working the camera.

But despite the difficulties endured by the calendar's model farmers, according to Countryman photographer Danella Bevis, most of the men did not need much convincing to get their gear off.

In fact, several expressed disappointment that it was not a naked calendar.

"The fact the calendar is for a good cause was certainly used as the primary excuse to be involved but I think plenty of the guys were secretly keen to get their kit off and strut their stuff," she said. "The enthusiasm for baby oil application really took us by surprise, particularly at the Cascade shoot.

"We almost ran out of supplies after they sprayed it through their hair, all over their faces and then stopped mid-shoot to smother themselves with more.

"We went through more oil on that day than we did in six of the other photo shoots combined and the guys left that night vowing to buy more for their own use."

But not all of the shoots went according to plan.

According to Danella, things nearly went awry at the month of May shoot in Allanooka when several young bulls decided to stampede.

"I was yelling at the boys to 'put in their best effort' for the last couple of frames before they took a break from muscle flexing and before I knew it one of the otherwise quiet bulls decided to make a run for it," she said.

"Considering I was the only thing between it and an unlocked gate to freedom I guess he thought he had good odds.

"I grabbed my camera and tripod, made a dash for the edge of the yard and the whole lot of them trampled past me. I guess we were lucky the other young studs in the photo shoot didn't follow suit - we ended up with a winning shot soon after."

The bulls weren't the only props to get shy. A couple of stud Merinos also baulked at the camera during a shoot with a bunch of young stud breeders at Gnowangerup.

Less comfortable in front of the camera than their model handlers, the rams made a break for it, jumping out of their enclosure and dashing across the paddock.

In hot pursuit were shirtless and baby-oiled models Luke Ledwith, Elliot Richardson and Lachlan Lewis, who managed to bring the unwieldy rams under control and continue the photo shoot.

More than six months in the making, the calendar will be launched at the Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days and will be available to purchase for $20 at the Countryman tent over the two days.

It can also be ordered online at www.countryman.com.au from 3pm, August 29.

All profits from the sale of the calendar will go to the RMHI.

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