Challenge and Response

Extreme weather has left many farmers and growers with major clean-up and repair work ahead. Farmstrong ambassador Sam Whitelock discusses what it takes to get through a long haul. 

 First up, Farmstrong’s best wishes go out to everyone whose lives and livelihoods have been impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle and other flooding. We know the storms have bought massive stress and extra work for many of you. Here are some tips farmers and growers have shared with us about getting through major setbacks.  

 Ask For Help If You Need It 

“These are exceptional events, so it’s hardly surprising if you start feeling ‘under the pump’ at some point. The main thing is – don’t bottle it up. Getting things off your chest and having a natter with a family member, friend or someone from the Rural Support Trust will help relieve that stress and give you a boost. When you catch up like that, you soon realise everyone’s experiencing the same emotions, you’re not alone and your community is there to help you.” 

 Use Others As A ‘Roadmap’  

“One thing farmers have emphasised is to listen to others who have been through similar experiences. There’ll be a lot of knowledge in your community about how to get through events like this, so make sure you tap into that wisdom. These people can provide a helpful perspective and act as your roadmap ahead.”  

 Focus On What You Can Control 

“Worrying about things you have no influence over only adds to your stress levels. Prioritise the things you can control. List out what needs to be done, make a plan about what to attack first and break down the work into achievable amounts so you’re not overwhelmed. As one farmer told us, putting pen to paper like this takes the ‘negative spin out of your head and makes you just deal in facts.’ It also gives you a sense of purpose – that you’re moving your life forwards, rather than just letting it happen to you.”  

 Be Realistic About Workload  

“Don’t expect too much out of any one day. Make a realistic list of tasks to achieve, so you finish the day feeling like you’ve accomplished something. That’s the sort of daily motivation required during a lengthy recovery. As one farmer summed up, ‘Don’t try and eat the elephant all at once.’” 

 Schedule Recovery Time 

“One thing I’ve learnt during my sporting career is that no one can just go ‘hammer-down’ the whole time, particularly during intense periods. Sometimes we need to step away for a breather and ‘reset’ physically and mentally. One flood-hit farmer in Hawkes Bay mentioned how helpful a simple change of scene can be during the week. It could be as easy as getting off farm to pick up a few groceries or coach kids’ sport.” 

 Don’t Neglect ‘The Basics’ 

“I remember after the Christchurch earthquakes we all got by on adrenalin for the few first weeks, then people started falling flat. When you’re facing a big task, it’s tempting to just get stuck in and forget the basics like sleep, eating well, staying hydrated and regular exercise. But these are the things that are going to give you the energy to make it through. As one farmer put it, ‘no one can run a marathon on adrenalin alone.’” 

 Prioritise Your Wellbeing  

“Remember, you are the biggest asset to your farm and family. If you’re going well, everything else around you is going to go better too. That’s why your own physical and mental fitness has to be an absolute priority even during challenging times.”  

Farmstrong is a nationwide, rural wellbeing programme for farmers and growers. To find out what works for you and ‘lock it in’, visit

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