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Step one can be as simple as making a plan

By Anna Campbell

Some sadist at my work had the bright idea of starting a ‘boot camp’ in order to get us urban desk rats out and about and somewhat fitter!

This morning, I found myself waking up, listening to the pouring rain and cursing my pre-Christmas enthusiasm for agreeing to partake. After dragging myself down to the oval, looking less than glamorous in my exercise regalia, I spent an hour in the pouring rain attempting burpies, crunches, shuttles, and other bizarre-sounding descriptions of activities designed to make my muscles ache for days, to the point where it hurts to even laugh!

As my nose came perilously close to a wet-worm-hole, it struck me that it has been a long time since I was drenched with rain and it also struck me how far removed I have become from farming reality. You see, I should not have been grumpy at the rain, I should have been celebrating and making my fellow boot campers dance with me in an invitation to the skies to give us even more rain.

We city dwellers, in our hurry to chase the sun with our boats and surfboards, are almost oblivious to the fact that times are really tough for farmers right now because of the lack of rain. Having to feed thousands of hungry mouths while watching a year’s hard work going down the proverbial, is the definition of stressful.

And while the recent rain helps, one rain-dump will not reverse the effects of a summer of drought, the problem is not suddenly over; feed and cash still have to be found to get through the year.

I was reminded of the stress of dealing with drought when speaking with Dawn Sangster, from Maniototo, last week. What struck us was that even though entire regions and communities can be going through the same event, the lack of conversation and the isolated nature of farming means stress can take its toll in a myriad of ways which we just don’t talk about.

Dawn has been involved in organising a Beef and Lamb New Zealand initiative to bring people together for “Dry Relief” field days.  She said that, like any of these events, as soon as you plan them the rain comes! In saying that, the ramifications of this drought will go right through the winter and farmers still need to be planning for managing winter feed, finances and stock numbers.

At the Dry Relief afternoons, these topics will be discussed, but the afternoons are as much about getting people off the farm for a yarn and bringing communities together.

On top of the drought, dairy farmers and sheep and beef farmers are also dealing with lower schedule prices, leading to more stress. This has all got me thinking about my own experience dealing with business stress. Under prolonged stress, what I remember most is the feeling of being isolated with no control and running round in circles, yet being unable to make a decision.

My heart truly goes out to anyone feeling like this and I will pass on the most simple and best advice a good friend of mine gave to me for dealing with this. He said “never speak about business after nine o’clock at night” and “get someone to help you make a plan”.

Both pieces of advice were invaluable and heeding this advice was a turning point for me.

If you are reading this and relating to what I am saying and can’t get to the Dry Relief afternoon in your area, then a good step would be to ask a friend, neighbour, farm rep, or farm consultant to spend a few hours with you, walk the farm, and put together an action plan. This first step is incredibly empowering and helps you to focus on the things you can control, rather than circling the ones you can’t.

Dealing with droughts, storms and low payouts are all part of the reality of being a farmer, yet that doesn’t make it any easier and sometimes, we urbanites need to be reminded of that.

I promise you that next time it rains on a boot camp morning, I will leap out of bed with glee and make my fellow urbanites join me in a little dance and song: “I'm singing in the rain, just singing in the rain; what a wonderful feeling, I'm happy again”.