Farming, like professional rugby, is a job with a lot of challenges, says Farmstrong Ambassador Sam Whitelock. That’s why it’s important to look after yourself by investing regularly in your wellbeing.
International research has found that people who thrive have five habits in common.
• Staying connected with mates
• Keeping active
• Taking notice and enjoy the simple things in life
• Learning new things to keep fresh
• Giving back to friends and community.
Whitelock explains: “These five habits help keep life in perspective when the going gets tough. That’s why I’ve made them part of my life, because whether you’re a rugby player or a farmer there are always going to be things that you can’t control. In rugby it might be the ref, in farming it’s the weather and prices.”
“I’ve found the Five Ways to Wellbeing make a big difference. They have a positive, cumulative effect over time and make you much more resilient. This gives you something to draw on when you are under pressure. It also makes you healthier and more productive on the farm.
Dairy farmers have been sharing with Farmstrong how they use the Five Ways. Here are a few examples to get you thinking.
Paul Walker runs a 300-cow, 90ha dairy farm in Pongakawa in Bay of Plenty and is a big fan of the Five Ways.
“I like the Take Notice one. I make sure I enjoy the little moments in farming. Snapshots, I call them. The things you get to see in farming that other people never see. You’re waiting for a cow to calve at midnight, and you’ve got a sky full of stars. I take that all in and it gives me a lot of satisfaction.
“In farming you could just keep going 24/7 if you wanted to. There’s always something else you can do. But no one can go hammer and tongs the whole time. You’ve got to look after yourself or you’re not going last.
“The Farmstrong website has so many resources that can help. It’s really simple stuff – eat well, sleep well, lock in the Five Ways and then you can function properly and everyone around you benefits – farm, family, staff.”
Cambridge dairy farmer Mark Gascoigne found the perfect Five Ways combo at his local cycling club.
“I help to run the Te Awamutu cycle club, which ticks a lot of boxes of the Five Ways – giving back, exercise, staying connected. We’ve got 350 members and run 40-plus races every year on the road and at the velodrome. When you’re helping people like that it energises you and makes a real difference to your own wellness. I’ve also recently become a facilitator for the Waikato Hauraki Coromandel Rural Support Trust to help people going through tough times.
“The main thing I’ve learnt about staying well on the farm is before you can look after your family, your farm and your animals, you’ve got to look after yourself.”
North Canterbury contract milker and former regional leader for the Dairy Women’s Network Abbi Ayre draws a lot of strength from staying connected.
Ayre says the network has played a big role in helping her feel on top of things and “having that sort of support is so important”.
Let’s leave the final word with Whitelock.
“Whether you’re noticing good moments, making daily connections, pulling on the running shoes, learning something new or volunteering your time, the Five Ways to Wellbeing can really help you live well and farm well. Different things work for different people, so my message is – find out what works for you and lock it in.”
More: Farmstrong is an award-winning rural wellbeing programme that helps farmers and farming families live well to farm well. To find out what works for you and lock it in, check out our farmer-to-farmer videos, stories and tips on www.farmstrong.co.nz
Correction: An earlier version of this article was amended to reflect that Abbi Ayre is former Dairy Women’s Network regional leader and not current.