The Resilient Farmer – “Shift Happens!” UK tour

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union are proud to be working in partnership with Rural Support to help bring the Resilient Farmer events to farmers in Northern Ireland.

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring excerpts from ‘The Resilient Farmer’ Doug Avery’s book to give a flavour of what you can expect from Doug’s talks when he visits NI in October.

His book is entertaining, heart-breaking, and inspiring and no doubt the events will be too.

Dates for the tour are as follows: 7th October, Glenavon Hotel, Cookstown; 8th October, Mourne Country Hotel, Newry; 9th October, Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen; and 10th October, Tullyglass Hotel, Ballymena. All events start with a light supper at 7pm.

Tickets for the tour are £10 per person, which includes a light supper. For more information and to book your ticket visit www.resilientfarmertour.co.uk

Excerpt from the chapter: My Top Paddock

Eight years, the drought lasted. Then no sooner had we learned how to deal with that than nature sent us a wind that roared like a high-speed train at 225 kilometres an hour, demolishing our fence lines, trees, our stoic stands of radiata pines, eucalypts and macrocarpas, as if they were skittles.

Even then she hadn’t done with us. Just weeks after the wind, in 2013, we were smashed by a magnitude 6.6 earthquake whose epicentre was only a couple kilometres down the road. Our possessions were broken, and sooty bricks ricocheted through the rooms of our beloved home. In November 2016, we had a second earthquake that made the first seem like a pup – 7.8 magnitude. It terrorised our small rural community and deranged the land itself, lifting our entire farm, fortunately in one section, two metres higher and five metres north, brought hillsides crashing down, and tossed is all around as if we were nothing.

If we hadn’t realised it before, surely we know it now: we humans are like fleas on an elephant, just a miniscule part of the great, rolling processes of our planet. Droughts, wind, earthquakes… we can’t stop these things happening. Nor can we escape the usual ups and downs of life: our family, like yours, has had its trials, its cancer scares, its timely and untimely deaths. Governments make good and bad policies that help or hurt us; the global economy is a force that must always be reckoned with. For farming folk as for everybody else, the really big things in life are outside our control. The only thing we can control is how we meet these challenges.

The first five of those drought years, things got pretty ugly for me, and I dived into a very dark pit. No matter what I did, I was unsuccessful. I had a destroyed farm, a destroyed bank account and destroyed hopes. The feeling of failure struck at the very core of my being: I thrive on reward, and that had vanished from my life. I was so ashamed and afraid, and yet so determined to blame everyone – anything – else for my problems. I was that man who wouldn’t come to the phone, who pushed everyone away, who bristled with anger and impatience, and who drank himself to sleep every night. I was that man who did his best to make his own wife leave him so there’d be no one left to witness the shame. I came pretty close to being the man who gets to the end of his tether and just ends it all.

All that saved me was a bit of luck. Help came to find me, in the form of a young sales rep who was pushy enough to make me leave the farm for a day. I didn’t want to go, couldn’t see the use, but he turned up anyway and made me get in his car and go with him to a field day down in Waipara. And on that day I got handed some hope: hope in the form of a new idea, a solution to a problem I hadn’t yet understood. I thought my problem was drought; it wasn’t. My problem was the way I farmed, and the way I thought about things.

Continued next week in UFU Watch.