"Worm or beetle, drought or tempest on a farmer's land may fall. Each is loaded full o' ruin but the mortgage beats 'em all."

Growing up, a cheery cross stitch bearing this quote by American poet Will Carleton hung in the hall of my family's farmhouse near Rotorua.

It was meant to be a light-hearted message, I think, but the older I got and the more I understood about the family business, the more ominous I found the words.

They were a reminder of the volatile nature of farming and how elements outside of anyone's control could throw the whole operation - a family's livelihood and assets - into disarray at any time.


The recovery from a destructive weather event can take months, even years.

The most resilient farmers, of course, are prepared for these events. The drought years and tomos and low payouts (maybe the worst of all) are tough but part of it.

They know they must have action plans for many scenarios, contingencies for their contingencies, funds for rainy days and for when there is no rain for days.

They all feel the pressure and all are vulnerable. Only so many things can go wrong at once.

So it's farmers I've thought of most often as this dry period has stretched on and on.

A week without rain. Two. A month. A month and some change.

In January, Bay farmers were preparing to make hard calls. In February, they were making them.

A dry season in itself is not unusual, but the signs and science indicate extreme weather events will become more common. The new normal, even.


Last year was the second-equal hottest on record in New Zealand and cyclones came one after the other through the 2017-18 season - four times more than normal.

Resilience in the farming community has become more important than ever before.

Today, if the forecasters and models are right, rain will return to the Bay of Plenty region and hang around a few days.

It might get heavy. There might be a cyclone in its wake.

Whatever comes will most likely be a relief to me. I am sick of the hot nights, sprinkler ban and air conditioning running up my power bill.

Farmers will be hoping for relief too. A good drenching, even. But in the back of their minds will be the other scenarios. The ones where there's too much rain.


Drought to tempest.