My partner, Dave, and I are dairy farming just south of Te Awamutu. We are equity partners in the farm, and before having our son Walter I was working off-farm at the regional council. We decided a while ago that we wanted to do something to diversify our income, so we looked at starting up a native-tree nursery.

I came across AWDT through work. I did my first AWDT course – Understanding Your Farming Business – and that really pushed me to probe more into starting the tree nursery. I thought the Know Your Mindset programme sounded really good. With a new business and our first baby on the way, we were going to be facing a lot of challenges and uncertainty. The course sounded like it would provide us with the tools to help navigate these issues, so I signed up.

It ran over two evenings, which meant that Dave was able to do it as well. It was all online. People were sat there with their dinner or their coffee. You might have just run in from the farm, but you could still be there, still engaged, still participating. We found it really good.

I think everyone in our breakout chatroom was a couple. It was advertised that you could do it with your partner, which was really cool. There were a lot of partners involved. For a man, it could be quite daunting signing up for an Agri-Women’s course! But the benefit of doing it together is that one partner is not then having to implement the tools and convince the other that this or that is a good idea. You’ve undertaken the journey together from the outset.

The first part of the programme was about identifying signs of stress, then the second part moved into really focusing on tools and action plans. In farming you’re always under different kinds of stress at different times of the year, and you don’t always recognise those signs. Just talking about it together while the course was going on, we could be like, “Oh, actually, that’s a sign that you’re stressed,” and “That’s a sign that I’m stressed.” And now that we can recognise it in each other we can acknowledge it. You might be a bit easier on your partner that day because you can see they’re a bit stressed, or you can see why someone might be a bit short. It was really cool to learn to just notice and name what is happening with our thoughts, feelings and emotions when we are stressed. And in the chatrooms you could tell that there were so many different things that pushed people’s buttons, so you could acknowledge that it might not be something that made you stressed but it could affect someone else – just being aware of that is really important when you’ve got staff.

Even when we’re stressed, Dave and I make a conscious effort and to not put that stress onto the staff. I think that makes a massive difference, because you want to have a happy, positive working environment. When you’re like that it flows on to the staff, which is awesome.

It wasn’t a massive course, not a massive commitment, so you’re going to get a lot out of it in a short space of time. I think it would be beneficial for anyone. At all different levels, there’s going to be something that you can pick out of it, useful little gems – whether it’s identifying stress in yourself or thinking about how you can help someone else who might be going through a tough time.

This story has been produced in partnership with the Agri-Women's Development Trust. It is story four of seven in a series that shines a light on how programmes run by AWDT empower women and encourage them to meet their potential, and make a positive impact in New Zealand’s primary sector and rural communities.

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