Trading the Paddock for the Ocean
There’s no beating around the bush. Working in the agriculture sector can be stressful, high pressure, as well as physically and mentally draining. We do it because we love it, it’s our history, our bread and butter, and part of who we are. But what are we supposed to do when it all starts to take a toll?
For too long, farmers have been conditioned to think that showing emotions equates to weakness, which could not be any further from the truth. That old adage of “the southern male’’, which very much crosses over with the stereotype of the southerner in general, has been preventing our community from getting the support they need to deal with the day-to-day demands of life, on and off the paddock.
Thankfully, the spotlight has rightfully started to be shone on how important it is to have those conversations around mental health and well-being in our industry, especially in Southland. One initiative in particular has really taken our fancy, and completely aligns with our values and beliefs around the idea that we all deserve a voice and a listening ear for when times are tough — Surfing for Farmers (SFF).
We’ve jumped on board as sponsors for the national movement, which was first launched in Gisbourne four years ago, by Bayleys Gisborne Country salesman and long-time surfer Stephen Thomson. Stephen had first-hand experience of working day in and day out with farmers that were dealing with the highs, and sometimes extreme lows, that come with running a business. Seeing the rates farmers were dying by suicide led him to get proactive and do something about it. Surfing for farmers is now an event held regularly all around the country, where agriculture workers can take time off the farm and connect with like-minded people near the ocean, and of course, learn to surf!
When Southlander Tom Slee, who grew up on a farm in Te Anau, met Stephen in Gisbourne while working, he decided to give surfing a crack and couldn’t believe the benefits the tranquility of the water gave him. Inspired more than ever, he contacted a long-time friend and Southland Surfing School founder Jess Terril, a New Zealand Surfing Champion, to see if she would help him set up a SFF programme in the deep south. From then on, it was a done deal.
On Friday, November 19 at 6pm, we’ll be heading along to either Riverton Rocks or Monkey Bay, depending on the surf, for free surfing lessons and to connect with our community. We’ll be checking in with our fellow farmers to see how they’re coping and have a good yarn over a BBQ and a bit of saltwater. This event is ongoing and all the equipment is free to use. So come on, try something new and get amongst an initiative that is guaranteed to better your mental health and overall well-being. We’d love to see you there!
And remember, it really is ok not to be ok. Just as much as it is ok to ask for help.
Posted: 19 November 2021