Lean on me

Paused sharemilker Mark Chamberlain is feeling refreshed in the first weeks of his gap year. And he has plans.

In Home Block5 Minutes

TOUGH TIMES ARE HERE. This will be no surprise to the farmers who have kept a wry old, weather-beaten eye on all things political emanating from command central, Wellington.

Years of Finance Minister Grant Robertson spraying money around like an old tom cat has seen the fiscal chickens come home to roost.

Surely even drug addicts must be saying they have an addiction.

We have always had the ability to stage an intervention, it is called an election. The French used to use a guillotine… just saying. We have moved on from that, to be fair.

Savvy farmers, I have noticed, have already pulled the levers on discretionary spending. Making decisions on ‘do I need it?’ or ‘do I want it?’ should now be in vogue.

Shiny purchases that burn fuel and do not reproduce themselves will wisely be deferred to sunnier days. But what I have always found to be most important when incomes go south, is that it is time to lean on relationships within the finance sector that have been previously nurtured, and that you have not disregarded or disrespected when times were golden.

Good communication and good outcomes that were forged in the past will continue in the future, while others will find themselves marooned on a sandy beach, financially exposed, without sunblock… ouch, and they will seem surprised yet again at the tidal nature of farming.

A couple of years ago, deep in the Waikaka Valley, we witnessed (unknowingly at the time) the birth of what was to become known jokingly as the Men’s Support Group.

What started out as a quick catch up on a Friday night has morphed into something more. Meeting in different sheds around the district throughout the year has forged long-lasting friendships that you might say are a couple of steps up from the friendly toot and wave, on a dusty gravel road.

It is a mixture of having a laugh, even a vent and of course taking the proverbial out of each other.

Everyone gets a chance to say something which is better than being the stoic silent type of old, which was truly detrimental in our industry.

Throw in a few extracurricular activities such as car and boat trips along with visiting each others’ farms to get an understanding of other people’s businesses and what they are thinking. Of course, there is always a cold beer after; you can fill your boots, just have one or none, no pressure – ironically, nobody cares.

I am not sure why, or how, but strangely after two years with all these different personalities in the group, there has not been one cross word or argument and that is saying something in today’s society, where everyone seems to be yelling at each other. We must have listened to Jacinda and were kind.

You may ask how my gap year is going? Quite simply, fantastic.

I thoroughly recommend it; I feel refreshed, energised, and although my sleep pattern still has some way to go, Mrs Chamberlain’s crankiness has even improved – I wonder why that is?

I have decided to spend my spare time helping other farmers where I can. I have found this quite enjoyable and rewarding.

Very shortly I will be setting off on a long walk. Can’t say too much about it at the moment, for fear of failing to fire and I’m worried that I will put too much expectation on myself.

So, just like farming I will chunk it down into pieces and work away at, but perhaps that’s fodder for another column, in a couple of months’ time. It will be physically challenging but more so, mentally tough. I will most definitely be leaning on relationships that I have cultivated and nourished in the past. Wish me luck.