By Cherrie Chubb, Dairy Chair, Federated Farmers Golden Bay
OPINION: It is no understatement to say that we live in challenging times. While we can be thankful to have avoided the worst of the impacts from the Delta lockdowns, we have not been spared from the weather. Floods, storms and the persistent number of wet or overcast days has left paddocks saturated and grass cover low. Feeding cows while minimising pasture damage has been a grazing by grazing exercise of constantly making the ‘least worst’ choices.
So, in a season where the challenges just keep coming, it might be worth taking a breath to consider a reset on how you view things. This is not a business-as-usual situation. Farmers are often stereotyped as being stoic, hardy types and in many ways that is true.
I’ve been sucked down the internet rabbit hole on Stoicism and have been fascinated by the parallels between being mentally resilient in the modern world with the ancient philosophy of Stoicism.
The short story of stoic origins is that of wealthy Cypriot merchant Zeno, who suffered the shipwreck of his vessel and the loss of all his trading goods. He found himself destitute in Athens, home of open air orators, thinkers and philosophers. Rather than being defeated by his life circumstances he developed his own philosophy of accepting the moment as it presented itself. He reasoned that you can’t necessarily control the circumstances of the world around you, but that you can control your approach to it. The ancient Stoics also had a strong belief in the need to understand the rules of nature.
Stoicism was a popular school of thought in Greece and Rome for several centuries. Nelson Mandela credits Stoicism for helping him endure his 23-year imprisonment and then guide him to look forwards to forging a new future for South Africa, rather than being consumed over the bitterness from the past.
How might that be useful to us is modern times? Maybe if we can find a way to step aside from our day-to-day demands to get some clear thinking space for a moment we might be able to look for a little perspective. Where are we at? What can we change? What can’t we change? What can we do now, to make a difference to where we are going? Where can we find the expertise to help?
Being stoic is a stereotype that inherently guides a lot of us but it isn’t everything. We live in a world that is so much more connected and instantaneous. We have a lot more tools and resources available to us externally than the ancients had.
Where they had to rely on their own strength of character, we have the luxury of phones and internet, rural professionals and industry bodies. We have a whole host of expertise and resources to draw on. Not to mention our families, the strength of community and neighbourly support.
If you are finding things challenging, I urge you to keep looking outwards. Strive for the opportunities to get some perspective. Remember your co-workers, family and colleagues are likely sharing some version of the same journey too. Keep connected.
And remember that these are not normal circumstances, so cut yourself some slack. Don’t compare this season with last; think about resetting your expectations from where you are now.
Looking back in six months’ time, considering how hard the spring was, what – realistically – are you going to judge yourself on? The way you made timely management decisions? The way you supported others, collaborated and rallied round to make the most of things?
Success in 2021 needs to be thought about more broadly than the usual hard metrics of milk in the vat, cows in calf or money in the bank. People should be at the heart of what we do, that includes you. Don’t be too stoic to ask for help if you need it.