May Monthly Trailmarker

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May Monthly Trailmarker: Steph Schmidt - Farm Life Psych

I'm sitting here with the fireplace finally going, listening to the beautiful, beautiful sound of rain on the roof. I'm also typing from the couch because my 6-year-old is home again for the third time this week. We are a chorus of coughs and sniffles. 

It's the 30th of May, and today is the first time we've lit the fire. (We actually probably didn't really need to, but it's nice to have).  I don't know about you, but this rain is desperately needed and welcomed. The radar shows that the rain is almost over, and I'm reluctant to check the rain gauge just yet. But we will take anything we can.

How are things in your neck of the woods? Have you finally had some rain? Farming is definitely a sport that requires some eternal optimism and honestly supplies of optimism have been dwindling at home. 

Small moments of joy. The headlights of an airseeder lighting a bush bbq

TL;DR (The important stuff if you don't read the rest)

  • Farm Life Psych Podcast - we are live, and two episodes in! Check it out here
  • Ask Steph - submit a question for the podcast: Submit here
  • Beef Week = Epic experience, more steak than I thought I'd ever eat in three days
  • Managing the Mental Health Impact of the Livestock Ban - Read my AuctionsPlus Article

What's been keeping me busy?

Podcast Covers - Farm Life Psych My podcast - Farm Life Psych with Steph Schmidt!

I've been saying this has been on the horizon for a while now. If I scroll back through my notes, I'd planned to launch this in the first week of March, but it wasn't a realistic goal. Juggling the stress of pre-seeding, before moving into (dry) seeding, school holidays, and a trip to Rocky meant my 'go' date for episode 1 just kept being put on the backburner.

Then, the sheep live export ban was announced. And so much of WA, SA, and parts of Vic are still waiting for their season break. The multitude of increasing pressures means there is real concern for the mental health for farmers at the moment... which was the exact push I needed to pushing go on the podcast.

The first two episodes of Farm Life Psych with Steph Schmidt are live. Episode 1 is a bit of an introduction to me, and an overview of what you can expect from this podcast, while Episode 2 is about the importance of filling your self-care bin.

Look, my plan was to have a month of episodes prerecorded prior to launch. But you know what they say about the best laid plans...... As luck would have it, I came down with COVID last week and continue to have coughs and sniffles. So recording is interesting. But I'll just be over here, keeping it real!

Episodes will drop every Friday morning, covering all the ups and downs of farming, but with a psychological spin.

Listen on Spotify Here

(I'm having teething problems with Apple, if you are an apple listener, watch this space. If you are a tech/apple wizard, please let me know!)

Don't want to miss any podcast news - click here and I'll make sure to keep you updated

I've changed the structure of the weekly Little Rocks reminder email slightly to adapt and include the weekly podcast drop. The aim of Little Rocks continues to be to provide short and sweet reminders in your inbox, but you'll also get an overview of the week's episode and a reminder to listen in. 

Beef 2024

I was delighted to be part of the Beef 2024 program, where I joined the ANZ Tender Steaks and Tough Talks dinner on Wednesday night. I also took great delight in meeting people in person who, up until that point, had only been tiny online square faces. Seminars, networking, and marvelling at the strong united identity in agriculture were all key takeaways. It was a big 3.5 days... but so rewarding.

At the Tender Talks and Tough Steaks Dinner, I had the pleasure of chatting with Belinda Sharpe and Troy Setter.  Some key learnings I took away from the conversations were:

  • Sticking true to your values. As the first female NRL referee, Belinda is often asked what it's like to be a trailblazer for other women. Belinda discussed that for her, it's really been about doing what she loves rather than focusing on "being the first". Interestingly, she began refereeing because she loved the sport but her dad wouldn't let her play the game because of safety. What an awesome example of finding a way to do what you love and finding a work-around!
  • Creating culture change through small, achievable steps. We spoke about the significant impact that alcohol has on mental health in the bush.  Troy spoke about some of the changes they have made at Consolidated Pastoral Company while at the same time recognising the importance of facilitating connection and camaraderie within their teams. So yes, they may still provide alcohol at social events, recognising that this continues to be a way that people in the bush come together, but they are also finding benefit in offering non-alc alternatives as well. 
  • Don't worry about the background noise. As the panel conversation progressed, there were a few tables who were keen to get on with enjoying the night rather than listen to our conversation. Luckily, I'd been pre-warned that the same thing had happened at dinner the previous night. As the panel facilitator it would've been easy to take it personally, however I could remind myself that it was definitely a "them issue" not a "me issue". As well as reading the room to pull my 5 minute wrap up speech down to a quick few sentences.

My wrap-up thoughts for the night:

Watching the cattle and bulls on display in the Big Arena during the week, I reflected on what was emphasised by the judges and commentators. The cattle weren't judged on their weaknesses. What was applauded, demonstrated and emphasised were the strengths of each animal.  Each animal was chosen as a top breeder based on the strengths and ways it would improve the mob. 

What if we treat farming mental health the same way? What if we focus on building on our strengths, rather than constantly focusing on our weaknesses and deficits?

Steph standing in front of a floral cow and Beef 2024 signage

What's Coming Up?

I have a couple of projects and engagements in the finalisation stages for the rest of 2024. 

I'm excited to be presenting a Toolbox Talk at the WoTL Thriving Women's Conference on August 12th & 13th - I'm stepping outside of the box a little to present a session titled:  Change your picture: Empowering rural women with psychological strategies and a touch of "Woo". Will I see you there? Check out the rest of the program here

My dance-card for 2024 is almost full, so if you've been thinking about reaching out for me to speak or run a workshop for your organisation, business or community - now's the time! Reach out to Work With Me

More podcast episodes are due over the coming weeks. The aim is a 8 week season before I take a break for a couple of weeks in the July school holidays.  

What's Happening on the Farm?

Seeding. Seeding. and more Seeding.  We have been dry sowing for over a month which means we are a fair way in. However, we haven't started any sowing yet on our mallee property because dry sowing doesn't work too well there.  As I write this, we are finally getting a little bit of rain (I'll check the rain gauge shortly to let you know the outcome). We still definitely need more rain, but most likely it means that we will be full-speed ahead into seeding at the Mallee farm.

Because it's now almost June, the next month will include seeding, lamb tailing, continuing to feed sheep (hopefully some green feed springs up soon), and then getting ready for shearing which we start in the July school holidays. 

Just know, I'm here with you in solidarity for however you are going on the farm at the moment. The uncertainty is high. The expenses are high. It feels like there is a lot outside of our control. I will continue to come back to and explore this on the podcast: how can we care for ourselves and focus on what's in our control when there is a lot going on outside of our control? 

Dusty and dirty toddler helping fuel the airseeder

What I'm Reading, Listening To, and Thinking About

What I'm reading: I'm continuing to love fiction books this year. I devoured Still Life by Sarah Winman during my Beef Week travels. A beautiful, big-hearted book full of characters I fell in love with, and stories of connection, friendship and the little moments that matter most.

What I'm Listening toResearching Happy Podcast by Matthew Iasello. Matthew is a fellow South Australian, a researcher at SAHMRI Be Well Co. I'm really enjoying the conversations around wellbeing promotion, particularly episode 1 with Corey Keyes, the originator of the Dual Continuum Model of Wellbeing. 

What I'm thinking about: Resilience in farming, resilient farmers and/or resilient businesses. Resilience is a word that many farmers have come to loath. A good friend and I have been deconstructing this conversation over an ongoing messenger chat - and I'm sure many of these thoughts and ideas will find their way into a podcast episode or article soon. 

If you've read this far, thank you! I hope you've enjoyed the update.

I'd love to hear back from you - please hit reply - and let me know what's been happening in your world, what are the current strengths and challenges that you see facing farmers and agriculture in your neck of the woods.

Oh - and if you are wondering - I just checked the rain gauge as the rain has stopped. 4.5mm.  Not a celebration by any means. Fingers crossed for more rain soon. 

All the best for the month ahead, and as always,

Take care of YOU,

Steph x

Stephanie Schmidt
Psychologist / Farm life juggler / Rural wellbeing advocate

0421 643 322

I have child-free workdays on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. However I choose to work flexibly & send emails outside normal office hours. No need to respond to my emails outside yours.

In the spirit of reconciliation, I acknowledge the past and present traditional owners of this land on which I live and work, the Ngadjuri people. I pay my respects to Elders past and present.

Any information provided in this email is general in nature and should not be taken as medical advice. For emergency mental health support please contact Lifeline 13 11 14


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