Paul & Louise Sherar, Loch - February// 2024 Mental Health Calendar
by Gippsland Jersey
Paul and Louise's dairy farming journey can be characterized by resilience amid adversity. Long before dating apps were the norm, Louise’s reply to a "find a farmer a wife" segment in a national magazine set them on a path of partnership, not only in life but also in business. Their agricultural venture has seen them through various lease arrangements, culminating in the recent acquisition of their own property—a milestone that has brought them both security and flexibility.
Central to their struggles were the financial pressures that came with a crash in milk prices. They experienced not one, but two severe crashes, the first occurring just after they had entered a partnership to buy a farm. This event heralded the onset of what Louise describes as the most stressful period of their lives: “We were operating two farms then and It was just super stressful.”
The impact was so severe that they ceased milking at their primary location and had to switch suppliers at the new venture to stay afloat. It took them nearly three years to regain profitability after this setback. “I think for two and a half years every single month, he'd (Paul) would be like, ‘who do I pay this month or how much do I pay this month or how much do I pay next month?’’’ The stress of these years took a considerable toll, eventually forcing them to exit their second venture.
Paul and Louise have come to accept the cyclical nature of farming, understanding that good and bad years are part of the journey. “That's farming for you…you're going to have good years, you're going to have bad years. Staff wise, money wise…you take the high with the lows….You've got to stick in it for the long haul because there's no quick money, no. You've just got to ride it out, you've got to pepp each other up when they're down.”
To offset the isolated nature of farming, Paul participates in a discussion group, which offers a valuable outlet and a sense of solidarity with others facing similar challenges. “Just to get out of your little space and go and talk to other people and see what they're doing and find out that they're probably in the same boat as you. That helps.”
Balancing farm work with family life has been another challenge they have addressed. Hiring a full-time employee has allowed Paul more time to spend with his growing children and has opened up opportunities for the family to engage in one of their shared passions: travel.
Paul and Louise's story is emblematic of the resilience required in the face of the farming industry's volatility. Their experiences underscore the necessity of adaptability, support systems, and the pursuit of balance between work and family life.