‘Getting Through’ – New Farmstrong Resources on the way.

Recovering from major weather events involves months, in some cases, years of hard work. Which raises the question – how do you keep yourself going through a long haul recovery?

It was while visiting flood-affected farmers and growers, that Farmstrong’s ambassador Sam Whitelock noticed how many people mentioned the importance of tapping into local knowledge. People who could put what had happened into perspective and act as ‘a bit of a roadmap’ for what lay ahead.

That’s the idea behind a suite of new resources – print, video, podcast – that Farmstrong is developing. The aim is to provide information and tools that will help people deal with future adverse weather events.

We’ve been interviewing with farmers and growers who were badly impacted by cyclones Hale and Gabrielle and asking them to reflect on the things that have helped them to get through mentally and physically. How have they navigated such a serious setback?

“The result is a collection of hard-won wisdom from people who’ve been in the thick of it and share what helps and what doesn’t when you’re busy trying to get your farm, your family and yourself going again,” says Sam.

The resources, which will be launched in the middle of the year, will also feature a ‘toolkit’ of mental fitness skills based on the latest science of wellbeing.

“The main message of these resources is a hopeful one – that people can get through extremely challenging times. Families rally round, neighbours support one another, communities come together and sector organisations act as essential advocates.”

There are a few surprises too. Sometimes a crisis presents unforeseen opportunities or gives people a fresh take on what really matters in life.

That’s certainly been the case for Northland kumara farmers Krista Franklin and her husband James who were looking forward to kumara harvest week when Cyclone Gabrielle turned their world on its head. She shares her story in the book and recently featured in a radio interview and podcast hosted by The Country’s Rowena Duncum in partnership with Farmstrong.

“I’d emphasise the importance of self-care. In those early days we just weren’t sleeping and that makes life so hard. So, sleeping well, eating well, exercising and still making time for your hobbies like my husband did with his hunting. That’s what gets you through.”

“We also used what happened as an opportunity to think about how we could move forward more positively. The cyclone’s proven to us that life is fragile and it’s important to enjoy the small things in life. It definitely took us a while to shift out of that ho hum space, but now we’re grateful for what we have as opposed to what we lost,” says Krista.

Farmstrong content expert Hugh Norriss says that getting through is about more than just ‘toughing it out’.

“After the February floods, communities devised strategies to make the land more resilient. We’re making sure we build back in the right way in the right places. So, it’s been a learning process. It’s been very painful, but we’ve learnt.”

“I think you can make a similar case for people – staying mentally well is about changing your mental landscape as well as your physical one. You’re not just going to go back to the way things were. This is an opportunity to try new things and change it up.”

While there’s no denying the fact that a long haul recovery process can be an emotional rollercoaster, the interviews to date highlight the importance of taking the time to look after yourself and refresh mentally and physically, despite the upheaval and frustrations.

With this in mind, Farmstrong has been working closely with the Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT), Rural Women NZ (RWNZ) and the Rural Support Trust (RST) to roll out community events to support affected communities.

A series of Farmstrong stand-up Comedy Shows led by well-known Kiwi comedians Nick Rado and Tarun Mohanbhai and Bitches’ Box shows featuring Emma Newborn and Amelia Dunbar are scheduled over the next few months in recovering regions, so keep an eye out for them in your area and get along there with your family, team and neighbours.

Farmstrong programme lead Gerard Vaughan says “We know that providing opportunities for people to stay connected, get off farm and have a fun social night out is a good thing to do at any time, but it’s particularly important when we are ‘under the pump’ as a number of people have been over the last year.”


Sign up for the Farmstrong newsletter