“To all my farming friends, I’m fed up with the negativity. Let’s buck the trend and tweet daily why you love your job. #lovefarminglovelife” tweeted Olin.
The sentiment is one shared by many New Zealand farmers, and Olin says now more than ever, it’s important to keep the positives in mind.
“The doom and gloom can quite easily drag people down,” says Olin. “We need more stories about how people have coped with the downturn. A lot of people are in unknown territory. Supporting each other and working together is crucial.”
Olin’s first tweet on why he loved being a dairy farmer captured a photo of his two-year-old son Jack’s mini redbands, with the caption “A farmer of the future takes a well-earned break”.
Olin says since he and his wife Anna have had children (Jack, two and Noah, three months), being able to spend more time with them is a massive benefit of the farming lifestyle.
“I don’t have to travel to work each day which means I get to spend a lot more time with the kids. Taking a break from the farm and having lunch together is a real treat. Anna and I also believe it’s important to sit down together as a family every night for dinner.”
When it comes to his mini future farmer, Olin says Jack loves everything to do with farming.
“Farming instils a good work ethic into you and your children. Safety comes first though and children can only go on the farm if they are 100 percent supervised.
"We really focus on achieving a good work-life balance. We want the children to see that. We don’t want them to be put off farming in the future because we were always working long hours during their childhood.”
Love of farming
Olin says as a dairy farmer, he has the ability to tinker at so many different things.
“I love that every day presents a different challenge. I’m never bored and I’ve become knowledgeable in many areas.”
Becoming a dairy training tutor for farmers studying towards Primary ITO qualifications is another role Olin has taken on and is relishing.
A love for the outdoors and animals were other major drawcards to dairy farming for Olin.
“These benefits don’t change with the milk price. I still love what I do every day.
The road to success
“The path to success does have ups and downs,” says Olin, “and it’s unique for everyone.
“To get through a dip we focus on our goals. We know if we keep steering in the right direction, we will come out the other side. Knowing what we’re aiming for, that’s what keeps us going.”
For Olin and Anna, the end goal is becoming part owners in a farm.
Moving to New Zealand from Ireland in 2001, the visible progression pathway was one of the things that enticed Olin to stay.
“Our medium term goal was a 50:50 sharemilking position, which we’re using as a vehicle to achieve farm ownership.
“Money and success are also motivating factors. A lot of our goals involve us being in the top 10 percent which helps us to progress.”
Olin acknowledges the need to be flexible along the way. “You can’t get too rigid or it will get you down. Regularly reassess where you’re at. A dip may put you back a year or two, but keeping that end goal in sight is a great motivator to stay on the right path.
“Setting non-financial goals is really important as well,” says Olin. “It’s not all about the money.”
A slightly larger herd (480 cows) than their previous sharemilking position has given Olin and Anna the ability to step back from the coal face more often.
“With staff on-farm, it’s a lot easier to have a holiday.
“I’ve had to work on my ability to delegate and accept that others might not do something exactly how I would.
“We want to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. I’m not going to work a ridiculous amount of hours and not see my family.”
One way Olin and Anna achieve this is having discipline around their lives.
“As a family, every Sunday night we have a meeting and plan the week ahead. We factor in how we will fit in other commitments – it’s not just work. It helps us achieve balance.”
Olin credits his strong relationship with Anna as being at the heart of all their achievements.
“If the core of your relationship is strong, everything else is easier. Prioritise what’s most important to you.”
As a trained dietitian, Anna adds a valuable outside perspective for Olin when he is immersed in the day to day running of the business.
“We approach things as a team and specialise in our own areas,” he says.
“Anna is really interested in looking after employees and health and safety. She recently completed the Primary ITO Human Resources module of the Diploma in Agribusiness Management – that’s her specialty in the business. Coming from another industry she brings an added dimension of skills and experience.”
The abundance of support networks are a major credit to the industry, says Olin.
“New Zealand dairying has a big emphasis on professional development and knowledge sharing. With networks such as Young Farmers, Federated Farmers, Dairy Industry Awards, Dairy Connect mentoring and DairyNZ groups, there are a lot of experienced and established farmers that are keen to mentor young ones.”
Olin is part of DairyNZ’s Dairy Connect programme which links a farmer who is looking for information or support with another farmer who has experience or knowledge of the issue.
“I’ve been linked with a couple of farmers and I’ve found it quite rewarding. It’s about banding together and getting support from someone who’s been through a similar experience.”
Simple but regular outings help Olin and Anna switch off. With Maraetai Beach 15 minutes’ drive from their house, it’s a favourite getaway spot which doesn’t have to cost anything.
“Getting off-farm is crucial to help clear the head.
“We’ve got some non-farming friends and chatting to them, we realise there are similar issues in other careers as well. It’s about keeping it in perspective.”
For wellbeing, Olin can’t emphasis enough the importance of talking to others.
“I’ll often ring people up just to check in or chew the fat. If I’ve got something on my mind or a problem, it helps to get other people’s perspectives.”
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy May 2016