Below are seven practical ideas and suggestions about time off, fresh from the farm gate.
1. Make time off a business goal
You are your farm’s most valuable asset. A serious commitment to health and wellbeing should be part of your business plan.
“When we set our farm ownership goal five years ago, we decided we wanted to enjoy life on the way and enjoy our children. We added a couple of years to the time it would take us to get there, but it has given us more time to appreciate the things that really matter instead of just being focused on farming all the time.” Female share milker, 30–39, Southland
“On the last day of your holiday, plan and book your next break off the farm.” Male beef/sheep owner, 40–49, Hawkes Bay
2. Plan your break and time it right
Many farming activities are seasonal, so plan your breaks accordingly. Peak times – like calving, lambing and harvest times – are obviously super busy, so you’ll need to schedule breaks at other times of the year.
“Go in the winter. Talk to other farmers in the area and find someone in a similar situation. Over winter you should be able to run both farms easily.” Female share milker, 30–39, Southland
“Plan early, so labour can be arranged. Don’t wait until you need the break.” Male beef/sheep farmer, 50–59, Poverty Bay/East Coast
3. Trust your staff, train them up
Passing on knowledge and skills and having well-documented systems that others can follow are the cornerstones of a successful, sustainable business.
“Give the employee the chance to run the farm on his own. you will be surprised at how they will accept the challenge.” Male sheep/beef farmer, 60–69, West Coast
“Learn to empower your staff to take over and trust them. Take pride in developing their ability to manage when you are not there.” Male dairy farm owner, 70 years and over, Waikato/Counties
4. Do swaps with neighbours
An obvious solution to getting time off is to coordinate with your neighbours, especially those with similar farms.
“Neighbours on the same road need to form a group where they each support the other to have time away.” Female beef farm owner, 50–59, Northland/Auckland
“Do an exchange with a neighbour. Get them to look after your farm for a week and you look after theirs in return.” Male share milker, under 30, Otago
5. Learn to delegate
It’s flattering to think you’re so indispensable that your farm couldn’t function without you. But is this really true? Farmers report most tasks can be effectively delegated for a day or two – or a week in the right season – as long as you prepare ahead and get the right help.
“Delegate more responsibility and let youthful enthusiasm take on the day-to-day activities on the farm. This has freed me up to focus on other things.” Male beef/sheep owner, 50–59, Manawatu/Horowhenua
“The world won’t end just because everything isn’t done your way. Learn to delegate.” Male dairy farm owner, 50–59, Northland
6. If you’re stuck for help, cast the net wider
There are more people available to help than you think – friends, family, retirees, students and travellers.
“Advertise for retired farmers to come in and farm-sit. There are lots of 60-plus cockies out there with bugger-all to do.” Male beef/sheep farmer, 30–35, Bay of Plenty
“Don’t be afraid to ask! Family and friends are usually only too happy to help out. You may not get whole days off the farm, but maybe a series of part days.” Female dairy farmer owner, 40–49, West Coast
7. A short break is better than none
Many farmers report the benefits of regular, mini-breaks to freshen up and keep things in perspective.
“Get the neighbour to feed the dogs. Even 24 hours away locally feels like a mini break to me.” Beef/sheep farmer, 50–59, Manawatu/Horowhenua
“Making time to get off the farm, even to go to town for lunch, seems to help clear the mind and make it easier to plan ahead.” Male sheep/beef farmer, 60–69, Canterbury