King Country farmer Dani Darke delves into FarmStrong to help keep things in perspective.
I think of myself as a positive person – it’s one of my core values. So to think about writing a negative column does not sit well with me. However I can’t avoid the fact that for the past month, most mornings I have woken up, after a restless sleep, with a heavy lump in my stomach, and a funny feeling in the back of my head that I have done something wrong.
It’s not hard for me to work out why I feel under pressure. I love spring, the hope and the miracles it brings. But I also despise it, with its senseless death. I don’t think I need to point out the myriad ways animals choose to die in spring as you will likely be well-versed.
I feel them all personally, as I know many farmers do. But that doesn’t account fully for my unease. Farming brings pressure, and I’m pretty used to that now. But add to that the uncertainty that has been thrown at us this year through policy changes particularly with the environment.
Now put a layer of farmer-bashing by our own media, and some city folk. Then for good measure add a change of tone from banks as they come to terms with their return on investment dropping from around 15% to 8% (I’m sorry if I don’t shed a tear for that).
I guess my point in thinking about all of this, and writing about it is that if I am feeling under pressure, I’m wondering perhaps if I’m a bit of a canary in the mine.
I worry about how other people are doing. Those struggling to get to grips with their succession plan. Those who are highly geared. Those who feel powerless and hopeless in the face of new regulation. Especially I think about the dairy farmers who have their backs against the wall.
Environmental policy changes have caused a bit of a rift between our sectors at times but at the end of it all, most of us are in this for the same reasons: we love the land, we love animals, we are just trying to do the best we can, with what we have.
I picked up a FarmStrong brochure today and it reckons that as farmers we are our business’s most valuable asset and need to be taken care of as such. I reckon this is a pretty smart way to think about ourselves, and our farming friends.
Are we doing what we need to, to help ourselves and each other to get through a hump? How are the neighbours doing – are they connected, have they got their heads above water?
Actually, if you haven’t checked out the FarmStrong website, it’s worth doing so. It has plenty of tips to keep your mind in good shape. For me this looks like keeping stuff in perspective. Not reading all the newspapers, and not buying into the doom and gloom rhetoric.
I’m also consciously focusing on being grateful, which is not hard to do once I set my mind to it. Our farms are beautiful, people come to them to breathe the fresh air! Our country is beautiful.
Our waterways are improving – there is so much we are doing, and so much we can still do, that gives me great confidence that we are going to make a significant positive impact over the next few years. And I’m focused on what is most important: my family, my friends, and that I enjoy this one life I have been given – after all this is not a practice run.
Taking time off the farm (not just to go to Freshwater meetings) is vital. Two days skiing with the kids this week has done wonders for my perspective.