Feeling farm strong at Field Days

Southland dairy farmer Gary Sunshine-Tervit was absolutely stoked to give Farmstrong a helping hand at this year’s Southland Field Days, which was held in Waimumu in February following a four-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Farmstrong set up its site in the FMG marquee and had a steady stream of farmers and growers coming through to have a chat with the Farmstrong team and grab some resources to take home. 

Gary suffered a brain injury in 2015 from a motorcross accident that left him barely able to work and badly depressed. He made it through those tough times and now enjoys helping others and spreading the word about the importance of looking after your wellbeing. 

“It was really great helping out at Field Days, chatting to people and handing out Farmstrong resources and goody bags. I could really relate to a couple of people who talked about their head injuries and concussions and the struggles they’d been through,” Gary says. 

“I talked about what I’d been through, the symptoms and getting professional help and was able to point a couple of them in the right direction in terms of what to do and the type of help that’s out there.” 

Gary, who was crowned 2021 Otago/Southland Dairy Manager of the Year, says when he was going through tough times with his head injury he felt alone and isolated. 

“When I was going through it, I felt like I was the only one. I had great support from my family but it’s good if you can talk to someone who has been through it themselves.” 

Conversations sparked 

Because Farmstrong was set up in the FMG marquee, Gary had a few people come up and ask him insurance questions. 

“It was a bit of a laugh. I told them I couldn’t help them with insurance but that I was with Farmstrong and could help them with other things. Then we got chatting about how the season’s going, how’s this and that, so it sparked some conversations about wellbeing, which was cool.” 

Gary says Farmstrong is making a big difference in the Southland community. 

“There’s been a big push around rural mental health in the last 10 years or so. Mental health was never really spoken about much before then. It’s become something that’s at the forefront of people’s minds and is more of a mainstream topic now,” he says. 

“Information and resources are easier to access online and on social media, and programmes like Farmstrong make it easier to get information and help.” 

Farmstrong also had sites at the Northland Field Days and Central District Field Days earlier this year and will also be at Agfest West Coast from 1213 April and Mystery Creek in the Waikato from 1215 June. 

Notice the small things 

Gary says it’s important for people to be aware of their wellbeing and take notice when something isn’t right, even if it’s small. 

“My main message is don’t ignore the subtle, small signs of something not being right. Take notice before the small thing becomes something bigger. I learnt that the hard way. 

“Whether you feel it yourself, or somebody else notices, don’t brush it off. Reach out and get some advice or help.” 

Gary says he never used to talk about his feelings. 

“Change your mindset about opening up, have conversations and talk about your feelings. I regularly see a therapist and that really helps me. I learnt that talking about mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness.” 

Sign up for the Farmstrong newsletter