Juanita Richards has seen first hand the pressure farm owners, managers and workers are working under on-farm. And she wants to help.
A youth advocate for many years, Juanita has set up a mentoring and support programme which focuses on young people working on-farm where “there is a real need, she says.
And it has seen her return to her rural roots to get the lay of the land.
“Once (young people) get a job on-farm they are just expected to step up and kind of push through and it’s not that easy even as an adult going back into the sector.
“And you’ve really got to have some skills in order to make it.”
Her role is to help take the pressure off farm owners and managers, and help them grow strong and healthy workforces, starting with their entry level and young workers.
Her business, On Farm Yarn, offers a mentoring and support programmes for young people on farm, people new to the area and new to working in the rural industry.
She is available now for people in need, but has a 12-week mentoring and support programme starting on July 4.
It will be a fortnightly session with one-on-one, face-to-face contact on-farm, she says.
It’s supported growth and development for employees and employers seeking sustainability in their workplace.
The topics are varied but include day-to-day living such as budgeting, meal planning and daily affirmations, as well as weekly on farm routines and getting work/life balance.
It also includes goal setting and preparing for the future.
Working in the rural sector can be very rewarding but young “New Zealanders are missing out on jobs”.
“They are very, very capable but they also get burnt out really quickly,” Juanita says.
“Farm staff are living week by week, they’re not saving anything and they’re not getting ahead. It’s really sad to see. Then they burn out and wonder why they did it.”
Juanita was working with young motivated rural workers more than a year ago who needed help in some areas. It was then the concept for her programme was devised. But there was work to be done for the former youth and family mentor.
“I knew I had to go back farming in general to have an understanding of what the lay of the land looked like (now) because I was a little bit removed,” she says.
“It’s not easy,” she says, of being back on farm working. She took up a relief milking role.
She had worked on dairy farms in the past despite growing up on a sheep and mixed cropping farm, near Methven.
Her parents, Tom and Colleen Richards, are generation farmers; they still own a sheep and mixed crop farm, which Tom took over from his father and namesake, Tom senior.
Juanita knows it can be hard to get off the farm, so she goes on-farm for the programme.
Since working on-farm and alongside young people Juanita has developed the majority of her programme.
As a young person there are different stresses in a young worker compared to the manager or boss, she said.
Young people have a different mindset and need the support of a different perspective on farm workings, with the support of their bosses, Juanita says.
It’s the farm owners who are the referrers of the workers to her programme.
“They’re the ones saying I would like support for this young person, Juanita says.
‘And at the end of the 12 weeks we actually all go back and sit round the table and we talk about where we’ve come from and what we have achieved and planning forward.”
“It’s not just kind of saying to the bosses ‘I’ll sort that’, it’s bosses investing in their young people.”
Face-to-face sessions as well as online options can be made available to work with staff rosters.
There are also sessions about connecting with others, especially important for those working and living in rural communities.
Juanita also has wellbeing and health tips on her On Farm Yarn Facebook page covering stress and planning for the future.