I must be getting old, because I find myself more and more harping back to ‘the good old days’. And that’s not just in relation to good movies, fun TV shows, great music or the Crows knowing how to win premierships.

But not all of the past was better than today. I for one wouldn’t want to trade the technology we have access to, the food and tourism experiences we now enjoy or even the prejudices some practiced in the past which are rightly not acceptable today.

Broadacre agriculture too has come a long, long way in the past 20-30 years. Who would have thought GPS, autosteer and all the practices of precision agriculture including soil and yield mapping, camera spraying and more would be the norm. Throw in the creature comforts of modern farm equipment with temperature controlled cabs (and seats!), fridges, ovens and Eighties music cranking the tractor sub woofers on Spotify!

But one question keeps coming to mind lately. Did we have more time? Does all of the technology, the advances in research and knowledge, the efficiencies and timeliness mean we don’t have to work as hard? Does it mean we have more time with our families? Does it mean we get to take more holidays?

It seems this kind of came home to roost for many this year, with a large, late harvest combined with more dry sowing or planting earlier crops meaning the gap between seeding and harvest continues to grow smaller and smaller. And not to mention the increasing focus on summer weed control and additional operations such as deep ripping or rehabilitating tram lines mean that something has to give. For some that means time with family and friends. It can mean less time to focus on budgeting and business planning. Maybe it means no time for field days and workshops?

Industry, agronomy and Ag business groups are increasingly looking for new ways to engage. And the ‘easy’ way is through workshops or field days. However, (and maybe this is also Covid influenced) we are all now much more selective about what we attend and why. Loyalty to a group or even to other farmers is now much more stretched as we prioritise our families, our businesses or even just a quiet night at home over ‘another’ night out.

And then there are the surveys – don’t get me started!! Why does it seem every industry group, every workshop, every telephone enquiry seemingly need to hit us with a survey? I feel like I get hit up with 1-2 Ag related telephone surveys a week, most of which I politely decline. I get that they are craving information, and I respect that many now offer gift cards or even a monetary gift to value our time. But our time cannot always be valued in dollars.

It is great that we now spend more time talking about mental health and wellbeing. It is great that most farmers recognise that it is okay to spend time away from the farm to invest in their own wellbeing. It’s not rocket science to say that in order to optimise your farms productivity and resilience you first need to look after yourself. You cannot make good decisions when you cannot think clearly. Constant fatigue should not be a virtue.

I once read a book by Robert Kiyosaki called “Rich Dad Poor Dad”. In it he explained how most people never become financially independent because they only invest money which is left over after all the bills are paid – and even then there is always that ‘extra’ thing which becomes the priority. He spoke of the need to ‘pay yourself first’ – the notion of putting aside first a set amount each week or month to be invested before paying the necessary bills. He stated that by setting aside money to invest first, then if you suddenly found yourself short of cash to pay the electricity bill, then you would deliberately find a way – as that bill is a non negotiable. It might mean you don’t buy that TV you wanted, or the extra coffee at the bakery on a parts run that week in order to have the money. But if you are looking to invest whatever money you have left over, then it is far easier to say ‘I guess I can’t this week’.

It is the same with mental health and wellbeing. It is so easy to say “I’ll take a day off when I catch up” or “We would have gone to the beach this year, but there was just too much to do”. Just like with with financial investing, we need to ‘pay ourselves first’ and invest in our own wellbeing before becoming consumed by our farms. And that may well mean that some lessor important jobs get left, because is there a greater investment than time with our families, our partners and our communities? And how do they feel if we constantly prioritise the workloads on our farms over them?

Yes it is easy to say. It is not quite so easy to do. But while we rightly should focus on creating a productive and prosperous future, investing in yourself first could change the life of your business and your family today. And as part of that investment it would be well worth your while checking out www.ifarmwell.com.au which has some great tools and strategies to help manage your life in a positive way.

And you will be richer for it. 

                                                                                                  Guest blog contributed by John Gladigau.

Growing farmers’ wellbeing

ifarmwell is a free online tool kit to help farmers cope effectively with life’s challenges and get the most out of every day, regardless of the circumstances they face.

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