Northland Inc chief executive David Wilson enjoyed a recent dinner in honour of farmers involved in Extension 350, a farmer-to-farmer extension programme modelled around three 'planks.'
The first two planks were tangible — lifting profitability and environmental sustainability on Northland farms, the third — improving farmer wellbeing — less so.
At the core of each cluster were five target farms, each working with a mentor farmer. Each target/mentor team also worked with a consultant, and after a period of time 'associate farmers' came on board to learn from the target farmers.
"It's a wonderful project that highlights how learning from others who have walked the same journey can make a difference to the 'health' of the farm and the triple bottom line," Dr Wilson said.
"It is easy to measure progress in profit and environmental sustainability, but the third plank, improving farmer wellbeing, is more abstract. How do you even 'do' wellbeing, and how do you measure it?
"However, this plank is fundamental to the three — it would be very difficult to achieve two without the other, and the Extension 350 project team is working on ways to address wellbeing."
With that in mind, it had been a privilege to attend the dinner to meet farmers involved in the project, and also to hear from keynote speaker Mike King, whose battles with mental health and addiction were no secret, he said.
"There have been many times in Mike's life where his 'being' has not been well," he said. "He said that for most people self-esteem was only 30 per cent how they felt about themselves, and a whopping 70 per cent how others saw them.
"It is uncomfortable when others perceive us to be failing, or not achieving, therefore many of us hold this stress close, not wanting to appear vulnerable or as if we are not coping.
"But Mike King's message was clear: talk to people, ask for help, don't bottle fears in, and if you don't need to go it alone, then don't. This is the power of a project like Extension 350."