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Viewing farming life differently for better rural health.

The Southland App

04 October 2021, 4:12 AM

Viewing farming life differently for better rural health.#YOLOFarmer Wayne Langford spoke to about 30 people at a Lower Aparima Catchment Group event on Friday. Photo: McCarthy Media

Whether it’s your own health or the health of your farm - being open and asking for support is a good thing to do.

That was one of the key messages from #YOLOFarmer Wayne Langford who spoke to about 30 people at a Lower Aparima Catchment Group event at the Aparima Tavern in Riverton on Friday (1/10)

Wayne, 38, is a sixth generation dairy farmer from Golden Bay whose list of roles and achievements includes co-founding the charity 'Meat the Need', serving as the National Dairy Chair for Federated Farmers and Golden Bay President, Primary ITO Stakeholders Council, Rural Service Centre Vice Chairman, and Te Whare Mahana Board Member - a trust providing local and national mental health services, based in Golden Bay.

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“I still see myself as a farmer. I love the animal work. Most of all, I’m a husband and a father,” he said.

Wayne shares his and his family’s very personal journey through depression and the inspiration behind their YOLO challenge where they committed to a year of doing one thing each day to show that they'd lived that day, and in doing so, changed their lives completely. 

#YOLOFarmer has been heralded as a call to view farming life through a different lens and challenge the status-quo for New Zealand's rural community. 

YOLO farmer Wayne Langford presenting to a group at Riverton. Photo: McCarthy Media

Wayne said his state of mind was affected by a plunge in the dairy price payout a few years ago, compounded by a couple of droughts.

He was spending a lot of time in bed during a two-year struggle with depression, while outwardly trying to put on a brave face.

One day, Wayne, wife Tyler, and their three boys, decided to go to the beach. One of the kids yelled “YOLO”, and from that point there was no looking back, with Wayne starting his YOLO blog in 2017, on his 34th birthday.

“We’re up to day 1648 I think. Doing these things rather than letting the farm control us. It’s about doing little things each day.”

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When day 100 came, they were in front of the White House in the USA, and on day 400, Wayne and Tyler did a skydive.

Getting back into rugby and the camaraderie that comes with that had also been important, he said.

In hindsight, he said his battle with depression “was one of the best worst gifts I’ve ever been given”.

Wayne said one area that needed more thought and resourcing was support for partners of people going through mental health difficulties.

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Sharing the adventures on social media, Wayne soon had thousands of followers - the Facebook page now has 27,000 followers - with many people asking for help or just responding to his themes of gratitude, giving, learning, connection and being proud.

Their farming approach is also evolving with a ‘Farming 2030’ project that involves a group of 12 people from a wide range of backgrounds advising on sustainability.

While it was very confronting to open the farm’s books and operation up to the group, it had been a catalyst for a change in attitudes as people saw the realities of farming, including the financial stresses and practical reasons behind decisions and actions, Wayne said.

The farm advisors have become advocates for the farm operation, and that has translated into positive community feedback, he said.  

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There hasn’t been massive change to the farm operation, but projects around pest control, a heritage orchard, sling-shotting seed bombs into fenced-off gullies and even cheese-making are making a difference.

When asked how he fits everything in, Wayne said he tried to set a limit to hours worked on the farm each week - it didn’t matter if he went over, but setting a target was one way of keeping things in perspective.

“We’re farmers. We’re food producers. It’s our job to feed our communities,” he said.

The Langford’s story will feature on Country Calendar in November.

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