Opinion: Farmers thrive on clarity, so "maybe answers" can create anxiety and confusion and delay decision making, Waikato dairy farmer Sam Owen writes.
In late 2021 I became a facilitator for the Rural Support Trust, which entails me visiting or talking to farmers who are under stress or strain and have contacted us to seek some help.
Our job is to help work out the person's needs, listen and help formulate a plan to get them heading in the right direction.
It's a free service and is open to anyone within the rural sector, it also has links to direct people who are not associated with the rural landscape to seek help as well.
During a call recently a farmer said something that has resonated with me every day since and has changed my outlook on our farming business.
The person said "I can't run my farm on a maybe"
Farmers thrive on clarity and definitive answers, whether it be good or bad a definitive outcome allows for a solid base to then plan our next move.
The maybe answers create anxiety and confusion and can lead to decisions being delayed or two outcomes being planned for instead of one, which creates more work.
So many of our stresses both on and off-farm come from the unknown.
As I've mentioned to people in the past, the scariest place you'll ever be is in your own head, worrying and playing out scenarios that are so out of left field that you can't relay them to anyone at the risk of being locked up.
I can guarantee these are all based on maybes or the unknown.
There will always be the maybes in life and farming but try and eliminate them as much as possible, as it creates a clearer plan for you and the people around you.
A definitive answer doesn't have to be instant but the longer it takes the more of the unknowns come into play and lack of clarity can cause people to take their eye off the ball.
This is where accidents and slip-ups can occur because the mind can be elsewhere wondering about the maybes.
The rural landscape is a diverse one, with so many people doing so many things, all with the end goal of producing a great product and making it home safely at the end of the day.
Confusion, and lack of clarity due to "maybes" are heightening stress levels on farms and businesses and the knock-on effect is a downturn in productivity.
So many calls are received by the Rural Support Trust from people feeling overwhelmed or unsure.
Helping find answers and seeking clarity on situations is one thing we help with and it's done by eliminating the what-ifs and the maybes from the situations.
There are obviously a lot of unknowns out there that we can't get a definitive answer for.
Will it be a dry or wet summer? What's the price of fertiliser going to do? Is the $10 payout here to stay?
What we can do is plan and make contingencies to allow us to make the best judgement call at the time.
It's still a maybe but by using the trusted advice of people within your business, locking in feed or milk price offers the definitive answer we need to then base a lot of our other decisions off that are variable or maybes.
Nothing in agriculture is a singular answer, every decision has a knock-on effect whether it be within the business or family.
Seeking clarity around as much as we can even on a day-to-day basis we can create a better work environment and a more productive one all by eliminating or reducing the maybe answers.
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.