Doug Avery: My message to farmers – in tough times, learn to be resilient and adapt

Doug Avery, The Resillient Farmer and James Warnock, RHASS Chairman at Lanark Agricultural Centre.
Doug Avery, The Resillient Farmer and James Warnock, RHASS Chairman at Lanark Agricultural Centre.
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Resilience is a word we hear all the time but how important is it to remain strong through the hard times?

My answer to that is in the story of how I came to be known as The ­Resilient Farmer, a story which I have shared with a number of ­people while I ­travelled around Scotland recently.

Doug Avery, The Resilient Farmer from NZ at Ingliston House, Edinburgh.

Doug Avery, The Resilient Farmer from NZ at Ingliston House, Edinburgh.

My first trip to Scotland allowed me to journey around this ­beautiful country and meet so many people who came to hear me talk. Some of the people I met told me that they had a sleepless night after hearing me speak. This is good – it means that I have helped them take the first step in challenging their own perspective and coping strategies.

Some people attended more than one of my events because they ­needed time to really understand the ­messages.

In 2001, my farm in New Zealand had experienced years of extreme drought, my ­business was facing financial difficulties, and as a result, I was desperately struggling with my mental health.

Life was getting on top of me, but I knew that I had to make changes to save my business and my life.

I have accumulated a lot of ­knowledge over the years and I want to help others to change their lives by changing their mindset. Change is a difficult thing to deal with, but if we alter the way we face change, we will be better equipped to get through it.

I’ve been touring around Scotland, thanks to the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution and John Scott, to share my story and hopefully I’ve been able to help others who are in the same boat.

We live in a continually changing world and yet we are not ­readily taught the skills to help manage our ability to adapt. My goal is to help ­everyone in the constantly ­evolving agricultural industry to be able to face change head-on and not be afraid of it, not just in New Zealand but globally, which is why I was so happy to be invited to Scotland.

The past is a great teacher but it’s a horrible master. Living in the ­shadow of the past can shackle your ­imagination and leave you thinking and ­feeling small. You need to learn to let go of it to truly be able to move on.

Focus on the things that you do have influence over. To get myself into the right headspace again, I had to learn to stop worrying about things that were out of my control.

However, my guidance and advice on how to be more resilient is not ­simply for people in agriculture. ­Everyone goes through hardships and in tough times it is important to be resilient and learn how to adapt to things that are unexpected.

I talk a lot about the V shape used by geese in flight. Geese work together to fly higher, faster and further and achieve 71 per cent greater flying reach as a team. They take turns to fly at the front and honk if they need help. We can learn a lot from this.

Build a team around you who will always be there to listen and assist and don’t be afraid to ask them for help when you are struggling. Your team will assure you fly higher with their help.

By providing guidance on how to survive, people will be able to thrive, meaning they will live a much more productive and happy life – but the first step is admitting that you’re not OK, which is also often the ­biggest hurdle. I journeyed to Scotland to confirm that there will always be things that we have to get past in life and these cannot be changed – what we can change, however, is the way in which we react. I am evidence that having a new mindset can absolutely change the fate of your life and your business.

With the right outlook, you can ­truly achieve anything you set your mind to, and I would like to think that’s the legacy I am leaving behind in the beautiful nation of Scotland.

The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland was proud to support my tour of Scotland and will continue to work on improving the health and wellbeing of Scotland’s rural communities.

Doug Avery, The Resilient Farmer.