Federated Farmers Wairarapa territory manager April Mainland writes about the importance of rural communities staying connected.
Rural New Zealand can get pretty isolated.
The land farmers work can get pretty intense – I mean who really enjoys sowing a hillside in gale force wind, or rescuing sheep from precarious positions in the pouring rain while avoiding certain tumbles with just one misjudged step?
It can all get a bit much – so to blow off steam and to help bring segments of the rural community together, I helped organise an outing with my team in a neighbouring province – this is something I'd like to see us roll out here in the Wairarapa.
I had helped organise an event together for the women of Federated Farmers Manawatu/Rangitikei.
Read more from Federated Farmers here.
Women have made significant contributions to farming in New Zealand.
Furthermore, no one outside of farming understands that for a farm to work, it needs the help of a team – for a business to succeed it needs community backing, generally coming in the form of support from a partner.
I felt the ladies' evening was a good chance to celebrate women in farming after calf rearing and lambing/docking was all done and dusted.
Often the ladies in the farming partnership are balancing the children, the meals, feeding calves or lambs, keeping the house warm and supporting the hubby, this is his hardest season in the calendar also. The ladies' night was about acknowledging that, and the pressures our women in farming have on a day-to-day basis.
Our guest speaker at the evening spoke about sustainability in the rural scene, but that was only used in an environmental, recycling and household context. I'd like to see people talk more openly about the term in a mental health capacity.
You are no good to your business or community if your own foundations are cracking.
Recently we had Mental Health Awareness Week and figures around farmers taking their own lives were released in a media article making for some tear-inducing reading.
It is important that our rural workforce feels respected and valued. One way of doing that is bringing segments of our community together and give them an opportunity to unwind, network and just have a good yarn about what is going on in a positive atmosphere.
Everyone can benefit by feeling they are part of a community – that they are acknowledged, valued and cared for.
This is what can be gained by group days or rural events such as ladies' nights and field days – people need something to look forward to. People need to feel like they belong.
Our rural communities are small, and due to technology these days we can often be so connected with the global dramas we are losing touch with like-minded people. We need to start interacting with each other again.
Where to get help:
Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.