Chris Kane, Marlo // June 2023 "Farming Conversations" Calendar
by Gippsland Jersey
Is it true that your nickname is Sugar?
Yes, that's correct. I've had that since I was 14.
Where do you farm?
I only just recently moved back home to Marlo, July 2022. My plan was to move back here and have a break from the dairy industry, however an opportunity came up and we decided we might as well have a crack at it. We used to come back to Marlo on holidays over Christmas and it would make my family so happy, so I made a pretty bold move and brought everyone here. We’re in an environment where you can go to the beach, kids can ride their bikes around the town. The change in the kids has been phenomenal.
How did you get into dairy farming?
I undertook my apprenticeship on this farm where we are now, so I’ve come full circle. I’ve been in dairy for the best part of 20 years now.
What do you love about the industry? What keeps you in it?
I love the cows. I love every aspect of farming. I say to the kids, ‘if you can find a job where you don't feel like you work a day in your life, do that’! Obviously, as a farmer, you work your arse off, but if you feel like you don't go to work, then, to me, that's all you can ask for in a job. Obviously milking cows has its ups and downs, every day presents a different challenge. You're always learning something new, so yeah, that's what keeps me going. I suppose the day I stop learning is the day that I'll get out.
How many cows are you milking?
We’re milking 340.
You were previously farming on a pretty elite farm, right?
Yeah, I was there for five years, that was enough. I think if corporations take over the industry, we're all screwed to be honest. Small family farms should all help each other because at the end of the day we all get paid the same milk price. We're not in competition with each other. We need to get back to helping each other more; the blokes around here come and give me a hand moving and sorting cattle and I help them in return. That's how our grandfathers did it. Farmers are in their silos when we should be amongst our community; we’d have better mental health.
I've witnessed being down with depression and it's hard to get back out of it if you don't have that support around you. I’ve had times in my life when it’s been very dark. I went and saw professionals and they basically said to me if you can get out of bed, milk the cows, feed the calves, then go back to bed, you've done well for the day, and it’s a tick. You can keep going.
My mental health has been up and down, all over the place for many years. I got diagnosed with depression when I was about 28. I actually just broke down. I don't know what happened. I just started crying one night in the dairy and I couldn't stop. That's when I just thought, ‘shit, there's something not right here’. Mum and dad were a massive support. The psychologist said, ‘without the dairy industry, you probably wouldn't be here right now. The fact that you can get up, milk cows, even if you do go back to bed for the day, it’s kept you alive’. I also got on some medication and learnt some tools that I can use when I feel triggered. I'm not saying that I'm 100% over it, but I reckon I'm about 80% of the way there now compared to where I was.
What helps you get through the weeks ‘better’?
It might just be someone dropping in for a beer and saying, ‘everything’s gonna be OK’. Someone to share the problems with.
Has there been a moment in your life when you’ve had a tricky situation and thought you needed to change gears to get through?
There's been a lot of those situations. Just recently (November 2022) when the floods came and I had to watch all my hard work go underwater, that was bloody tough. Dairy farmers, Macca and Tim Barnes come around to help. We were all in the same boat and together we just talked about it. That made me feel less alone. It’s the mateship that keeps me being able to shift gears and keep going. I showed up to a couple of mates’ places in West Gippsland when they were down-in-the-dumps just to check up on them to make sure they were doing OK. A week later a message or call comes through from them to say ‘thanks heaps for that chat. You know, if it wasn't for you I probably would have pulled the pin on everything.’ What goes around, comes around and that's the way it should work here. As a farmer we work everyday of the week and it can be a real juggle to find family time. They say that a problem shared is a problem halved. We're not competitors. Let's be open about stuff, what's happening on the farm, and even with your personal life, because everyone farming is in a similar position.
The Farming Conversations 2023 is brought to you FREE by Gippsland Jersey, Connect Well, East Gippsland Community Foundation, Orbost Regional Health and the Royal Flying Doctors Service.
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