After weathering stormy periods both with weather and employment issues, Gaye Coates reminds us to enjoy the sunshine.

There is something deeply soothing about listening to the rhythmic drumming of wanted rain on the roof. It is profoundly therapeutic being able to translate those sounds into a near instant change on the comments line in our weekly farm report from “scary” to “now have grass”.

A rain-free period on the West Coast over summer was initially welcomed while we regrassed, repaired fences and made use of “willing” children home on holiday to attack the weather dependent maintenance list. Then, when the ground hue changed and the weekly farm walk showed grass growth stalling, the novelty of extended sunshine hours wore off and the thinking cap came on to work our way out of the gaping feed hole and to keep cow condition and milk production on track.

When it did eventually arrive, that pitter-patter resonating through the ceiling was welcome to say the least. Ironic, given that the same rain sounds eight weeks ago, were heard as an intimidating cacophony while we battled against the elements to put in winter crops and ryegrass paddocks. That period of rain resulted in three attempts to establish the winter swedes, making each Aparima Gold bulb every bit as expensive as the similarly named precious metal. Testament again, that much of farming is lived in moments and what is wished for one day, can be loathed on another. Either way, the moment will pass.

That same reminder that moments do pass can be applied to filling the fifth slot in our permanent farm team, an exercise which is proving to be as challenging and as elusive as finding the Fiordland moose.

We are a small, family-like team. There is a tremendous amount of trust and respect that goes with working and living alongside each other that cannot be underestimated, so team fit and sharing a passion for playing the game well is as important onfarm as skill. I’m sure former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen would attest to the significance of that.

“It would be fair to say that this summer we have developed an appreciation for the structure of an employment contract.”

Over the years we have accumulated our stories and if I’m ever tempted to move aside from farming, I think I could easily slot into script writing for Shortland Street, Coronation Street and a number of other onscreen dramas.

However, despite some memorable let-downs, the core of our team is very much a stable group who share the same farming ethics who back us and each other. Over the summer we have certainly learnt that this team culture is crucial to getting up each day and feeling good about being at work.

It is hard to get the balance between getting just someone to fill the gap and waiting to get that “right” person who may never turn up. We’ve learnt from experience that there is no perfect answer to the quality versus quantity dilemma, both scenarios place stress on the team especially in the context of a shortage of agricultural workers nationwide. This summer, we have all learnt that the far greater stress comes from the mental fatigue of having someone in the team who doesn’t share like everyone else in our farm’s established practices and values.

It would be fair to say that this summer we have developed an appreciation for the structure of an employment contract and gained confidence to follow by ourselves the resolution processes the employment laws within that give. While it would probably be a stretch to say that those processes were an exclusively positive experience for all parties, we were grateful that we were supported by the wording of a good employment contract to have difficult conversations that were correct, invited objective and healthy discussions and that provided a clear pathway to a positive outcome. Thankfully too, this moment will pass – rainbows after rain is the focus.