"Don't take Mother Nature on, because I did and I lost."

Those were the words of advice Marlborough farmer and author Doug Avery gave to farmers in Tapanui last week.

Speaking of his own experiences of dealing with drought and mental illness, Mr Avery gave farmers some advice on looking after themselves and their farms to get through.

One of the most important things people could do was look after their capital, he said.


There were three types of capital - financial, natural and social.

"The guy standing in front of you lost his battle with social capital," Mr Avery said.

"Keep your damage to this year; look after your capital."

"Get the stuff you're going to sell out of the way and try to look at next year."

Listen: Doug Avery talks to The Country's Jamie Mackay on dealing with drought:

After eight years of drought in Marlborough, it had taken its toll on Mr Avery, and he was struggling.

"There wasn't an animal on my farm that suffered, but I did suffer."

Mr Avery's farm was one of the better-off farms after the drought in Marlborough, but he had not travelled through it the same, he said.

"Mental illness is an illness of able people."

The challenge for farmers during this drought was to look forward, he said.

As human beings, we tended to look at the situation and go to "what did we do last time?"

Farmers needed to look forward and instead of working backwards, think about the next move for bouncing into the future, Mr Avery said.

People needed to think about the situation like driving a car. No-one backed anywhere, they always drove forward and the only looking back was through the small rear-vision mirror, he said.

"When you're driving your car think about your life in the same proportion.

"I'm not going to bounce back, I'm going to bounce forward."

Known for looking at the positives, Mr Avery was driving between Gore and Tapanui, and spotted a paddock of red clover which was lush and full.

Legumes had huge potential in Southland, as lucerne did in Marlborough.

They doubled the value of water and gave you nitrogen for free, Mr Avery said.

Farmers needed to get involved, and, as other speakers had said, "make a plan".

"Put this drought in perspective. The biggest challenge is not the drought itself but the head game."