The first priority for the partnership is to develop a rural specific national strategy, which is expected to be in place early next year.
Richard Allen, Group Director Farm Source, says, “For generations the RST has been standing by rural communities and have a long history of showing up and helping when times are tough. Fonterra has worked successfully with the RST for some time but more action is needed and this new partnership will help strengthen our wellbeing support throughout the country.”
“Developing a national, long-term strategy with clear objectives and actions that address mental health and other rural challenges is simply the right thing to do.
“Farming is an animal and produce business, but it’s also very much a human business. It’s right to show up for communities during events and emergencies, but the partnership also recognises an ongoing need for support of, and commitment to, New Zealand communities.”
Farming is right up there when it comes to the most rewarding jobs in the world, but it can also be one of the most stressful and demanding. According to 2020 research from DairyNZ, 62% of dairy farmers said they or someone on their farm experienced mental health issues in the previous 12 months.
Neil Bateup, Chair of the National Council of RSTs, says, “Kiwi farmers and growers run pretty special businesses, but they’re businesses that are vulnerable to a bunch of significant external factors – many of which are out of their control. A good example is the extreme weather and flooding experienced across parts of New Zealand recently. Farmers are also feeling increasing pressures due to things like rising on-farm costs, the labour pinch and increasing compliance obligations.
“We’ve come a long way in the last decade or so, in that there’s more recognition that mind health is just as important as physical wellbeing, but we know there’s still a lot of work to do in this area.”
Some examples of Fonterra and RST working together:
Earlier this year Fonterra was one of the sponsors of Matt Chisholm’s nationwide Time Out Tour for RST. Matt is an Ambassador for RST and talked to rural communities about mental wellness, resilience, his own struggles and what he did to help overcome them. (www.rural-support.org.nz/Time-Out-Tour).
In August 2021, a Fonterra and RST ‘Good Together’ Rugby Team played the Parliament Rugby Team to help raise more than $100,000 for the RST to help flood-affected South Island farmers.
Farm Source Charitable Giving initiative – allows farmers to donate their Farm Source Rewards Dollars to three charities, including the Rural Support Trust.
Fonterra’s Christmas Charitable Giving initiative – allows employees to donate cash to one of three charities, including the Rural Support Trust.
Fonterra extends Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to Fonterra farmers indefinitely
Last year, during COVID, Fonterra extended its Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to Co-op farmers. Fonterra has now extended this offering indefinitely.
EAP is a professional and confidential counselling service provided by an independent company, EAP Services. Fonterra funds the service for employees (and now farmers) to help those who are experiencing any personal or work-related difficulties.
Mental wellbeing on farm can be testing at this time of year and with the added uncertainties of weather events it gets tough. If any Fonterra farmers are finding things difficult or would just like to talk things through with someone, they can take a look at our EAP offering. Contact details for EAP and other tips and advice that can help improve mental wellbeing are available to Fonterra farmers via the Health and Wellbeing portal on the Farm Source website (https://nzfarmsource.co.nz/business/my-business/health-and-wellbeing).
Where to get help
Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633 or text 234 (available 24/7)
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (12pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 or text 4202 (available 24/7)
Anxiety helpline: 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY) (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.