Women and empathy essential to rural life

Olivia Ross.
Olivia Ross.
Across our region we recognise the importance of women's collective place as critical farming partners in the sheep and beef sector.

Last week I was fortunate enough to host the inaugural Southern Ladies' Long Lunch in Gore on behalf of the Southern South Island farmer council.

The day was designed to help celebrate the women who farm either first-hand or in conjunction with their partners and family, and provide them opportunities to upskill and make new connections.

As 150 ladies descended on Gore, Allison Mooney, the person interpreter, and Robyn Pearce, the time management queen, created laughter that could be heard blocks away, and had the woman asking questions of themselves and each other on their personalities.

The vibe in that room last Wednesday was one that made me proud to be a farmer, and seeing new friends being made - and the stresses of the season being halved by being shared - was not only humbling but exciting to see.

The only slight silence that could be heard during the day was when B+LNZ Inc ambassador chef Graham Hawkes served an array of beef and lamb for lunch.

This year the lunch gave particular emphasis to rural mental health.

I am a firm believer that without an understanding of communication and empathy in life, no-one ever operates to their full potential.

How does this all link back to mental health?

If we don't have those conversations - whether they are simple or difficult - then how do we understand the people we love?

Discovering whether they were the playful, precise, peaceful or powerful one in the household and who they were living with may have just given some of the women present the window to success they needed - or at least a better understanding of their households.

Why their teenager or husband lies on the couch staring at roof at the end of day frequently, and when asked what they are doing, always replies: ''nothing.''

Or why when they send little Jenny to her room when she's been told off, she goes without a fuss and seems to enjoy it.

If we are organised and able to manage our time better, then we tend to be less stressed and learn that ''no'' is the most powerful time management tool we all have.

Procrastination is something which I graduated from university with honours in, and learning how to overcome this is something that has saved me immense amounts of time over the years.

I personally believe we cannot rate the women in our communities enough (not that I am biased or anything).

So if you're a rural rep making that next visit to a farmhouse or simply making the phone call, don't automatically ask for Mr, as Mrs is more than likely able to help you or to be the key decision maker.

As we head into the 50th FMG Young Farmer of the Year this week, we can look back and remember the number of women who have been leaders, finalists, members and organisers throughout the years.

So why not shout a farming woman in your life a day off farm on Friday for the practical day at Donovan Park or one of the dinners starting Thursday night?

To all the like-minded rural women out there, remember the words of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan: ''No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men''.

-By Olivia Ross

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