A banter over a beer
Paul and Pip Walker run a 300-cow, 90-hectare dairy farm in Pongakawa, just south of Te Puke, in the Bay of Plenty. Pongakawa can get very wet in winter and Paul’s farm is low-lying, just above sea level.
“If we have a cold, wet winter it can be a real slog. Sometimes it lasts into November. When you’re pulling calves out of mud, those winters can feel very long. And if your animals are under stress, it puts you under stress.”
That’s why two years ago Paul formed ‘Benaud’s Backyard Bumpkins’ (after legendary cricketer Richie Benaud), a social cricket team comprised of local farmers and growers. Once a week for sixteen weeks every summer they get together to ‘recharge their batteries’, get some exercise and, more importantly, have a ‘banter over a beer’.
“I find talking to others really helps relieve stress. When you live where you work, you definitely need an excuse to get away. It might be just one night a week, but the cricket makes you get off the farm and allows you to ‘let off steam’ with other guys who can relate to your situation. They’re doing long hours like me. They know how stressful flooding can be. They get it.”
“Our partners and wives have all commented how beneficial it’s been. That’s why they’re keen to make it happen too. The trick is to just plan for it and find the time like any other task on the farm.”
“In farming you could just keep going 24/7 if you wanted to. There’s always something else you can do. But no one can go ‘hammer and tongs’ the whole time. You’ve got to look after yourself or you’re not going last. Sharing the journey and talking with others is a big part of staying well.”