Put your energy into what you can control

Learning to live with unexpected challenges is the key to getting through life in lockdown for Otago farmer Luke Tweed.

Along with his family, Luke runs a 730 ha. sheep and beef operation in central Otago. It’s the family farm and he enjoys carrying on the tradition. “I love being able to work outside and with animals, but the opportunity to bring up our kids on this farm is the really big one for us.”

Luke says he, his wife Bridget and their four kids have coped ok with lockdown so far. “All things considered we’re going well. It’s pretty much farming as usual for us. What’s changed is the kids are home and Bridget who’s an Area Manager at FMG is working from home too. So, it’s a bit hectic at times. But we are lucky we’ve got a big backyard, which helps with the kids wanting to get outside to enjoy some fresh air and burn off some energy.”

It’s not all plain sailing for Luke at the moment. The local meat works is operating at reduced capacity and there’s a lack of processing space for his stock. “That’s a bit of a challenge that will probably get worse before it gets better. Unfortunately, that’s pretty widespread around the country. This time of the year we’re usually off-loading a lot of stock before winter sets in, so yeah it’s been bottlenecking and you are limited with the numbers you can get away at any one time.”

But rather than stress out, Luke tends to take a different approach. He’s big on focusing on what he can do, rather than stressing about the things he can’t.

“I think you just have to accept it and put your energy into what you can control. Just be smart about the situation. We are lucky that we have had a reasonable season down here and we’ve got a little bit of feed around us. I feel sorry for those further north in the drought. Adding dry into the mix as well would be very tough. But for us, it’s about trying to be smart and make good decisions. Trying to carry feed through into the winter and allocating feed to different stock classes. It’s about doing what you can really in a practical sense.”

Luke’s also grateful that the rural supply and distribution chains are working as well as they are.  “Everyone’s doing what they can and doing a bloody good job, to be fair, in what are pretty crazy times. Everyone just needs to do what they can whilst respecting the social distancing guidelines too.”

The biggest challenge for Luke and Bridget is juggling work while tending to three school aged kids and one preschooler.

“We have school work or exercises prepared for them in the morning so they can put their heads down and get stuck in to that. We are also trying to be organised around meals. They are always hungry so it’s about trying to stay on top of that too! It’s about balancing that load between Bridget and myself – seeing who has some spare time and can handle the kids at a certain time. I choose what jobs I can do on the farm safely with the kids so they can join in.”

“We are also conscious of going into winter, making the most of the nice autumn we are having here and getting out in it while we can. We are happy as a family to go for a bike ride or kick around together and spend time outside. There’s always jobs you can do on a farm, but we’ve always been mindful of keeping a balance with our family life.”

Luke’s a keen hunter and is disappointed at the prospect of missing this year’s deer hunting ‘roar’ and potentially the start of duck hunting season. Once again though, he’s focusing on what’s possible in his own backyard to recharge his batteries.

“You’ve got to look after yourself to be resilient as a farmer. It’s easy to become too busy and burn the candle at both ends. If you’re not eating well or getting enough sleep things can go downhill pretty quickly, so your health and wellbeing has to be number one priority. You also need other activities to keep yourself going mentally.”

“I’m lucky on the farm to be able to get plenty of exercise and fresh air. We’re a pretty active family too so we’re out and about a lot. We do the odd bike ride and I also have a rowing machine in the workshop which is pretty good on a wet day. Getting a sweat up and getting stuck into that helps blow out some cobwebs.”

Luke reckons some greater good might come out of the lockdown as rural families experience an alternative to their normal hectic schedules.

“I know a lot of people have commented that regardless of the fact that it’s a terrible global pandemic, there are some enjoyable aspects to the lockdown. It seems that the whole pace of life has just settled out a bit and people are allocating their time more wisely. We’ve been enjoying a lot more family time lately, for example, which has been good.”

“I realise the lockdown could go on for quite some time as the country works through the different levels. This obviously has the potential to create some anxiety for a lot of people. I don’t know what the magic answer is to deal with this, but my tip would be to just put your time and energy into what you can control. A lot of it is obviously out of our hands.”

“We’re getting by and like many families it’s a bit of a balancing act for us. We are conscious of the position we are in and feel fortunate to live where we do. We’re trying to take what positives we can, there’s not much more you can do.”

“We have to look after each other too, because we’re all in it together as farmers and friends. We just need to look out for each other and keep talking.”

“Obviously there is the challenge of not catching up in person for a beer or coffee, but you can still pick the phone up or have a yak over the fence … at a safe distance, of course.”

Farmstrong is a rural wellbeing programme that helps farmers and farming families live well to farm well. To find out what works for you and “lock it in”, check out our farmer-to-farmer videos, stories and tips on www.farmstrong.co.nz


Sign up for the Farmstrong newsletter