Camilla - Farming wife and rural social worker, Collie NSW

My picture of the struggle in farmer mental health is:

So many complexities in farming impacting the wellbeing and mental health of both the person traditionally seen as the farmer but also the whole support system. It goes well beyond the individual sitting in the tractor cab, mustering the stock or fixing the machinery. In any one day the supporter such as partner, wife or other staff can be the chef, cleaner, counsellor, delivery driver, carer, financial manager, admin support, apprentice mechanic and much more at a moment's notice. In any other industry we would have people employed, acknowledged, valued (and remunerated) for these roles. Does this contribution make me a farmer too, not just a 'farmer's wife' (a tag I absolutely detest - never has my husband been called a 'social worker's husband')?

With the often reactive nature of these many roles, paired with taking on the lion's share of domestic duties and often juggling off-farm commitments such as paid work, volunteer roles and caring responsibilities, there is extreme pressure placed on the supporter which often goes unrecognised. Often these challenges are outside our control which can feel really helpless and overwhelming. E.g. sowing and harvest will always be times of chaos, challenges and solo parenting; weather conditions and markets adding extra strain to the business and family like the hail storm just before harvest or threat of a dry spring to thwart a great looking crop; geographic isolation leading to social isolation, poorer access to healthcare, childcare, education, activities etc; the machinery breakdowns at the worst possible times like when rain is coming mid-harvest or sowing; social networks which may be more out of geographical convenience than natural bond.

Some of the glimmer/joyful moments that reflect farmer mental health for me:

The challenges are also the things which make farming unique and something we love. I love that every day is different and there are practical and effective ways I can contribute to such a huge operation, such as channelling effort into cooking healthy and tasty meals to keep morale and energy levels up, and building the Tractor Snacks community off the back of this.

Watching my daughter fall in love with tractors and going for a drive with Daddy.

Delivering ice blocks for afternoon tea and suddenly jumping in to lend a hand moving machinery, clean out the mother bin, be a second set of hands helping to fix a truck.

Being a supporter to new partners who move to town, helping them to learn about the challenges and complexities of farm life and ways to navigate the busy times. Seeing the passion in my husband for the land and the business.

Looking out the window across the crops, with not another building or person in sight. Packing to head to the beach once the busy times are done!

A little more about Camilla:

We run a broadacre cropping farm - wheat, barley, canola, chickpeas, faba beans. I am also a rural social worker with RAMHP - role to link people to services for mental health support, deliver training, events and information to promote mental health messages.

I was raised on the family livestock and cropping farm at Mendooran NSW.

This kind of project is so valuable in helping to shift stereotypes that farmers are just the men driving the tractor, recognising the role of partners and supporters and variety of challenges and needs of everyone involved in the operation. Farmers couldn't do and achieve what they do without the support network behind them.


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