Rugby great Sam Whitelock comes from a farming background and is an ambassador for Farmstrong, an ACC-supported rural wellbeing initiative.
All Blacks legend Sam Whitelock says many of the lessons he’s learned in the international rugby arena also apply to the farm.
The most-capped All Black of all time, Sam is a proud ambassador and advocate for Farmstrong – a rural wellbeing initiative for farmers and growers to help them ‘live well to farm well’.
Sam recently overtook former captain Richie McCaw in the record books for All Blacks appearances, ending his international career with 153 caps.
He came within a whisker of creating more history recently when the All Blacks narrowly lost the 2023 Rugby World Cup final to South Africa. Had New Zealand won, Sam would’ve become the first ever player to win the tournament three times.
No stranger to pressure during his long career at the top level, he says focusing on daily habits helps him manage when the going gets tough.
Helping farmers with their mental health
Sam comes from a farming background and intends to return to the farm once he quits club rugby and finally hangs up his boots.
He’s a big believer in Farmstrong, which encourages farmers to share their stories and look after themselves as well as they do their pasture and livestock.
“I think of Farmstrong as a verb, it’s something people can actually do to increase their wellbeing,” says the 35-year-old from Palmerston North.
“I’ve seen first-hand how well its solutions work for rural people when they choose to adopt them.”
ACC is a strategic partner of Farmstrong, alongside rural insurer FMG and the Mental Health Foundation.
“I’ve been its ambassador since 2016 and what I like best about the programme is that it’s so practical,” Sam says.
“I’ve made the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ part of my life, and I encourage all farmers to do the same.”
A proactive approach to wellbeing
Farmstrong encourages farmers to make their wellbeing a priority in a demanding job, both physically and mentally.
“It takes a proactive, strengths-based approach to mental wellbeing and resilience by focusing on simple, daily habits and thinking strategies that are known to increase wellbeing and alleviate stress, especially during tough times,” Sam says.
“To get the best out of your farm or orchard, you first need to get the best out of yourself. That’s true of any results-driven business, whether you’re a farmer or a rugby player like myself.”
The impact of farming injuries
In 2022, ACC accepted 22,630 farming-related injury claims, which came at a cost of $96 million to help people recover.
An ACC-funded study for Farmstrong shows 58 per cent of injured farmers linked their injuries to stress associated with farm work. A quarter of the farmers surveyed said it was a major factor.
Research shows exhaustion, lack of sleep, the daily stresses of farming, isolation from friends and family, and being unable to take a break increase the risk that a farmer or farm worker will have an accident.
“New Zealand’s farmers are among the best in the world at what they do,” says ACC Workplace Safety Manager Virginia Burton-Konia.
“But sometimes we don’t make the best decisions if we’re feeling tired or under pressure.
“Farmers spend their lives growing our food and milk and helping our economy, but they’re not great at looking after themselves. Our partnership with Farmstrong aims to change that.”
Last year, over 14,000 farmers and growers in New Zealand attributed an increase in their wellbeing to Farmstrong.
Farmstrong – the Five Ways to Wellbeing
- Connect – research shows people with strong social connections are happier, healthier and live longer
- Give – when you give your time to others, they benefit, but it makes you feel happier too
- Take notice – paying attention to smaller things can help you feel calm and relaxed
- Keep learning – learning new things keeps your thinking flexible and open
- Be active – keeping active is a great way to feel good
For more information visit the Farmstrong website.