What is Farmstrong?
Farmstrong is a non-commercial give back initiative which has been founded by rural insurer FMG and the Mental Health Foundation (MHF). The Movember Foundation has also provided funding via MHF.
Farmstrong is different, in that its focus is on wellbeing and what farmers can do to maintain and improve their health. It aims to highlight to farmers that they’re the most important asset on the farm and need to put themselves and their wellbeing in the business plan.
While FMG and MHF are the founding partners of this initiative, Farmstrong is its own brand. Its main distribution of information is via its website and through its social media channels. It aims to give farmers access to the tools, resources and information needed to take better care of themselves and in turn, their farming business, their families, staff and community.
Running alongside Farmstrong are two programmes – Dr Tom Mulholland’s Healthy Thinking Workshops and the Farmstrong Fit4Farming Cycle Tour.
These programmes will help Farmstrong achieve its goals in its first year. There are more details about Healthy Thinking and the cycle tour within the QnA’s.
How was Farmstrong created?
In the same way that farmers learn on (and off) the farm – Farmstrong too needed to go to the farm gate to find out exactly what farmers wanted and needed to help lead happy and healthy lives and to build resilience.
Farmstrong is based on extensive research of the wellbeing of farmers and farming communities. This research identified wellbeing and quality of life as being top of mind for farmers who also said they wanted more information on how to look after themselves and their families.
This research saw more than 400 farmers surveyed, which included an online survey as well as interviewing farmers face-to-face. Further desk based analysis and scientific findings around wellbeing have also been used to create Farmstrong.
Nearly half of respondents to the survey wanted advice on how to achieve better work-life balance and over a third wanted to know more about managing tiredness and fatigue.
Health PitStop research for dairy farmers found half had moderately high or high blood pressure and two thirds had cholesterol levels higher than the World Health Organisations recommended levels.
How will Farmstrong help farmers to invest in their wellbeing?
Farmers aren’t ones to sit around and talk about their feelings so we’ve built a programme that will help farmer’s access practical information they say they want, when they want it.
The main source of information will be hosted on the Farmstrong website www.farmstrong.co.nz.
The website contains practical tips and strategies on topics that have been proven by science and research to improve mental health and wellbeing. These include healthy thinking strategies, physical activity, good nutrition, staying connected with friends, getting a good night’s sleep, and getting time away from the farm. Research shows that action in these areas helps build resilient people who are able to better cope with the pressures of farming.
Being resilient doesn’t mean the hard knocks will go away. What it does mean though is that people are better placed to deal with these hard knocks when they come up.
What are you asking farmers to do?
Farmstrong is responding to what farmers have told us they want.
The research shows that farmers would like practical tips and advice on what they can do to live well and farm well – and that’s what Farmstrong provides.
All that’s required are small changes, which if done over a long period of time, can have a positive impact on how farmers live and work.
We know that farmers are focused on looking after their stock and machinery and are meticulous when it comes to running efficient systems, like milking and shearing. What Farmstrong helps to show farmers is that it’s important to have a system to look after you too. And actually, it’s ok to have that system in place.
Making time to get off the farm, to spend time with the family, connecting with neighbours and friends is just as important as machinery maintenance and stock management.
Why is Farmstrong important?
New Zealand needs Farmstrong, a programme for all farmers.
It focuses attention on an area that is crucial for agricultural success and tackles it in a positive, practical way. The emphasis is on building the resilience and healthy thinking skills to handle stress, rather than dealing with the consequences of burnout once it has occurred.
Behavior change around farmers seeing themselves as the most important asset on the farm will take time. To be successful, this way of thinking needs to be farmer-led and supported by the rural sector. In doing this Farmstrong can help improve the lives of anyone living in a rural community – and in turn help make the agriculture sector a more attractive place to work.
How will Farmstrong achieve its objective?
Farmstrong will share information through its website. It will allow farmers to connect with each other and share ideas through social media. It will encourage people to make a commitment to get active – through the Farmstrong Fit4Farming Cycle Tour.
Farmstrong will promote Healthy Thinking tools and techniques through Dr Tom’s Healthy Thinking talks and workshops. This, along with the cycle tour will allow farmers to connect with other farmers from their community, region and across the country.
What is Farmstrong’s aim?
In its first year Farmstrong aims to make a positive difference to the lives of at least 1,000 farmers.
How will you measure making a positive difference to the lives of 1,000 farmers?
This will be measured in a number of ways – noting that its small changes, sustained over a period of time will make big differences.
- Farmstrong will be able to track how many people pledge kilometers for the Farmstrong Fit4Farming Cycle Tour
- Added to this, the programme will be able to see how many take part and join in the tour itself
- Farmstrong will record how many farmers attend Dr Tom’s Healthy Thinking Workshops and public events in regional communities
- The programme will record the number of farmers who visit the Farmstrong site at Fieldays and take part in Health Checks – which Farmstrong will provide for free
- Interaction via Farmstrong’s Facebook page and Twitter account will provide another form of measurement
- Farmstrong has developed a dashboard of wellbeing measures that it will track over time to measure the impact of the programme on those who participate and on the wider farming sector.
These are all positive steps around connecting with people, taking part in physical activity and taking an active approach to checking physical health and also overall wellbeing.
What’s just as important are the positive stories of the changes farmers are making that sit behind these figures, and Farmstrong will look to share these stories with others around the country.
How is the farming industry involved?
Farmstrong is a farmer-driven initiative, strongly supported by leading agricultural organisations. Selected farmers, who attend the Healthy Thinking Workshops with Dr Tom will become Farmstrong ambassadors.
These ambassadors will be influential and respected members of their communities with good farmer networks. Farmer to farmer communication with Farmstrong will be central to the success in supporting people to make positive changes to their lives.
What’s wellbeing got to do with improving productivity?
Research shows that healthy thinking and healthy living hold the key to increasing productivity. Sleep, diet and exercise, for example, have a huge bearing on a farmer’s ability to manage a farm successfully. When people are not functioning well, decision-making becomes difficult, relationships deteriorate and productivity suffers.
Don’t we already have rural support agencies working in this area?
Yes, and these agencies do great work and we’re working alongside them.
What makes Farmstrong different is that its sole focus is on prevention. Our aim is to get people thinking about putting in place simple steps to look after themselves so that in the long run they’ll more resilient to the ups and downs of farming.
The hard knocks of farming aren’t going away, and in some cases – such as weather, dairy prices – these hard knocks can’t be controlled. What can be controlled is how people choose to react. Farmstrong will help provide strategies to cope with these type of pressures.
In what other ways will Farmstrong get its message across?
Change in behaviour takes time, so Farmstrong is putting in place networks and strategies to create a long-term, sustainable programme of action.
Farmstrong will partner with established agricultural networks and organisations to get the Farmstrong message across. It will work with other organisations with an interest in improving wellbeing
It will also engage with social media and Farmstrong will have a regular presence at agriculture field days and high-profile agricultural events.
What are the Healthy Thinking Workshops and the Farmstrong Fit 4 Farming Cycle Tour?
Two major initiatives will roll out in 2015 and 2016 under the Farmstrong umbrella. They are:
Farmstrong Healthy Thinking workshops. These will be run throughout the country by well-known author and motivational speaker, Dr Tom Mulholland. From June, Dr Tom will spend three days in eight regional locations throughout New Zealand. Two of these days will be spent delivering free, healthy thinking workshops to invited influential farmers, some of whom will become Farmstrong ambassadors. On the third day, Dr Tom will spread his message to other farmers in the region by hosting a breakfast meeting or a public meeting or via local media.
Farmstrong Fit for Farming Cycle Tour. To promote being more active Farmstrong is encouraging rural NZ to run, walk or cycle four million kilometers over the next year. To help achieve this Farmstrong has partnered with the charity Fit4Farming for a cycle tour that will begin in March 2016 and travel from the Waikato to Invercargill. Farmers and their families will be invited to get involved by cycling, running or walking a section of the journey. Leading up to the events, participants are encouraged to pledge a number of kilometers that they will contribute across the year, challenging themselves to get involved.
Who funds Farmstrong?
Founding partners are rural insurer FMG and the Mental Health Foundation. Funding has also been provided by the Movember Foundation via MHF. Financial commitment is for two years. The past year has involved planning, research and design of the Farmstrong programme.
FMG and MHF make a strong partnership. FMG is New Zealand’s leading rural insurer, providing insurance and advice to farmers and growers from 30 offices nationwide. It’s a mutual insurance group owned by its members, 100% New Zealand owned and operated. The Mental Health Foundation is a charity which is well recognised for its work in fostering mental health and wellbeing.
Why is an insurer involved in promoting wellbeing?
As FMG is mutually owned, its profits are reinvested back into the business to the benefit of its members – which are farmers. FMG has been supporting rural New Zealand for 110 years’ through events, sponsorships, advice and also in being there when the unexpected happens.
This is like no other partnership FMG has entered into before. We’re proud to be working alongside MHF and giving back to farmers, growers and their families on what is an important and timely issue.
By working with MHF in developing and delivering Farmstrong FMG can help play a central role in supporting the sectors growth objectives over the next 5-10 years. This is a programme that cuts across all sectors of farming to help all farmers and growers.
What research has been used?
This material has been developed to help promote farmer wellbeing in New Zealand and stimulate discussion on these important topics. We gratefully acknowledge the following organisations and resources for their inspiration, ideas and input.
Dr Tom Mulholland’s Healthy Thinking, The Power of Healthy Thinking, Champions’ Guide Material. BSS NZ’s Managing For Mental Wellbeing, Fatigue Management, the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety’s Managing The Pressures of Farming and various presentations, advice and literature provided by The Mental Health Foundation of NZ.
What is the Movember Foundation?
Working year round, the Movember Foundation is a global charity raising funds and awareness for men’s health.
These funds deliver breakthrough research and services to allow men to live happier, healthier and longer lives. Since 2003, millions have joined the men’s health movement, raising $709 million globally and funding over 800 programmes focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity.
The Foundation runs awareness and fundraising activities year-round, with the annual Movember campaign in November being globally recognised for its fun and innovative approach to raising money and getting men to take action for their health. During Movember, we challenge men to grow a moustache or to make a commitment to get active and MOVE, both of which are about real action for health and are done to spark conversation and raise vital funds and awareness.
The Foundation’s vision is to have an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health.