2500 Facebook friends ease farming isolation

LOUISE GILTRAP
Last updated 06:56 21/07/2014
Louise Giltrap, left, and Stacey Williamson are among the more than 2500 members of Farming Mums NZ.
TOGETHER: Louise Giltrap, left, and Stacey Williamson are among the more than 2500 members of Farming Mums NZ.

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As much as you probably think I have too much to say – or as my dear old Dad used to tell me, ''You have got too much of what the cat licks its bum with, my girl''– there are things that make me unsure of myself.

Flying is one of them. Meeting new people is another. So on Monday last week I was feeling a little out of my comfort zone while waiting for a young lady I had never met before.

Stacey Williamson is a member of a Facebook group that I – along with more than 2500 other ladies the length and width of the country – belong to. Both my daughters belong to it as well, because we all fit the page title – Farming Mums NZ.

We're a group of like-minded, hardworking, supportive and nonjudgmental women who all have, without exception, the wickedest sense of humour and a community spirit that is above reproach.

Stacey lives in Te Kao, about 90 minutes' drive from me. She is married to Josh and they have two small boys, Toby, 4, and Campbell, 2.

They farm on a large sheep and beef block and have found Northland life for the last threeand-a -half years absolutely fabulous. Although isolating, the weather pattern generally lends itself to being user-friendly for all of the gorgeous beaches and scenery that the Far North boasts.

Stacey and I sat and enjoyed a hot beef salad for lunch while we yakked about what the group stands for, why it is so successful and how it has not only benefited both of us but how it also helps ease the feeling of isolation for many rural woman.

Anything is up for discussion within the group. We celebrate the birth of babies, the start of calving and even the finding of a lost wedding ring in a calf pen after the use of a bloke with a metal detector.

The good, the bad and the ugly of being a farmer's wife is always on the table for discussion in one form or another.

The group will help with all sorts of things, like suggestions of online sites to find dresses if you're a bridesmaid for your best friend's wedding.

Woman are encouraged to post about their best tips for flu, colic or sleep deprivation.

We discuss our biggest struggles and the things that drive us the craziest – husbands, farming life and even what time is acceptable for a stock agent to ring at night and how one should deal with that.

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Page administrators are Chanelle O'Sullivan, who farms with her husband in the South Island, Deanne Parkes, who contract milks with her husband in Pahiatua, and Stacey in the Far North and they are always watching for anyone that may be misbehaving.

We are all different, we have different opinions and at times lack sleep, have bad days and feel under-appreciated. But at no time is it acceptable to be rude or nasty to each other on the page.

After Stacey and I had been private-messaging each other over a few weeks, it was fantastic to put a face to the name and meet someone I would ordinarily not have crossed paths with.

Stacey is a passionate young woman who has a sense of humour that would give any comedian a run for their money.

She is passionate about contributing to her community and is on board to help with a fundraiser we are planning for a national cause that is close to not only the nation's, but both our hearts.

I feel we can applaud the clever use of social media to connect likeminded people in the true sense of providing information, support and ultimately the sense that we are not alone.

Being a ''farmer's wife'' is a job in itself, working alongside your husband every day does not provide enough benefits (trust me, I know).

But at the start and end of every day, we who are members of the Farming Mums NZ Facebook page know that no matter what, we have more than 2500 ''friends'' who at the touch of a button on our computer keyboards can provide us the strength, support and sense of humour to make it through another day.

* Louise Giltrap is a Northland dairy farmer and mum who loves hearing from readers. gsgiltrap@xtra.co.nz

- NZ Farmer

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