Sure, when the rain has fallen they are all over their livestock agents, hoping to snag cheap sheep or cattle. And when the hydraulics burst on their tractor just as they start the first round of a paddock sowing canola on Anzac Day they’re onto their local mechanic in a flash. And these are important calls, don’t get me wrong, they help pay the bills (not before initially costing them money), however they are neither life affirming nor life giving.
And while beers at the pub or local picnic races with mates is often the default farmer to farmer point of connection, long term it’s not the place to find sanctuary, and have lifechanging conversations.
I make this point because 2 weeks ago I hosted the first Farmers Friends weekend retreat at Hanaminno, facilitated by Tommy Herschell, its intention being to give farmers a forum to discuss sustainable farming practices and share ideas, challenges and achievements with their peers. And an incredible thing happened over that weekend. Away from the stresses of their own properties, and the day to day grind of farming, they communicated in a way that made me proud to be a farmer, and blessed to have been able to give them the opportunity to connect, purge and restore.
Camping out under the stars...
At a time when rural suicide is at an all-time high (every 4 days an Australian farmer commits suicide), regional population decline is the norm, and successful farm succession is at an all-time low, forums like Farmers Friends are a very real antidote to these alarming trends, and it restored my confidence that farmers, and men in general, are great communicators, we just need the opportunity and the balls to speak our mind.
Gathered under a beautiful golden elm, the boys attending Farmers Friends discuss Biodynamics, farming life and succession planning...
And even if the most a farmer attending took away from the gathering was a few sustainable farming practices to try on their own farm, then it was a win for the environment, their local community and their bottom line.
If you would like to know more please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org