by Liane Corocher, Monkerai.
As featured in The Country Web 2017 Annual.
Living the life of a farmer certainly has its highs and lows. I have always thought this was the case through my career within the agricultural sector, but it has only really been in the last 18 months, since I bought a small farm with my husband and four sons, that I truly understand the highs and lows of being a farmer.
Lets start with the highs.
Our boys have developed a much greater understanding of where their food comes from and the process for creating it. They have been involved in raising our livestock, processing it or taking it to the abattoir and then gaining the satisfaction from eating the end product. Understanding the process to grow good food has helped them value the animal or plants more and has given them a desire to make the most of what we harvest.
Our eldest son has transitioned from high school to agricultural college and it has been great to see him pursue his interest and passion in agriculture, and do so well. Having the opportunity to apply his skills on the farm has been a fantastic opportunity and has placed him a good position to pursue whatever agricultural career he chooses.
We have moved into a fantastic rural community. This has completely surprised us, as our boys have friends on the neighbouring property (they even share the same first names which can be very confusing) and there are lots of young children in the area.
Our community is full of wonderfully kind and generous people who are willing to share ideas and are happy to help us in whatever way they can. Being able to share a beer with your neighbours on a Sunday afternoon, in a beautiful setting is certainly one of the highs.
Now, the lows.
It has certainly been a challenge. We greatly underestimated how much time and money
it would take to restore the farm to a productive state which includes rebuilding old infrastructure and increasing our livestock. We often find that we are one step behind with repairing fences and creating paddocks, and as we get one paddock fully fenced, another fence falls down and becomes the next ‘top’ priority on the growing priority list.
We have also developed a very good relationship with the local vet—probably too good a relationship! Increasing our jersey herd has meant we have faced every animal health issue imaginable including milk fever, raising calves, mastitis, retained placenta’s, liver fluke infestations etc. However, I am happy to report that during our latest vet visit, the vet reported that our jersey herd was one of the healthiest he had seen. We are also grateful to have a local dairy farmer as our ‘unofficial’ mentor who has helped us manage these issues.
In farming we often get side tracked by the physical and financial challenges of managing the farm. However, the social aspects and the people in the farming business is more important. One of our biggest lows over the last 18 months has been the challenge associated with having a young son with autism and the difficulties with gaining support and services in an isolated rural community. We have had major challenges with the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme), school transport and gaining therapy for our son, which has placed a huge pressure on our family. However, after eight months we now have access to NDIS funding and our happy, healthy son is now getting some of the support he needs.
Even though there has been lots of highs and lows, I look at every experience as a stage in our journey. Our learning curve has certainly been a steep one, with the angle of the curve sometimes completely vertical, where we seemed to slip backwards faster than moving forward. However, when I think of resilience as being able to learn from adversity whilst still moving forward, I think we are not going too bad. Having a positive outlook has helped us look at our lows as learning opportunities, and I have developed some insights which may help others in a similar situation.
1. Find that special place on your farm that allows you to stop and admire the beautiful place you work in and get back to what is truly important. For us this is our river and the view over the valley from what we call ‘the old house site paddock’.
2. When things really turn to crap, you have a number of lows in a row and you find it hard to see the positives, then this is a sign that your need to have a break and get away from the farm. This will help ’empty your jug or mind’ to be able to think clearly again. Even a weekend away is helpful in this situation.
3. Take time to stop and celebrate everything you have achieved. When times get tough it is easy to focus on what’s going wrong, rather than what’s going right or what you haven’t done rather than what you have done, which can be the start of a downward spiral.
We still have a lot of work ahead, am I am sure many highs and lows to come. However, keeping things in perspective and taking time out to enjoy what we are doing is an important part of our farming journey.