Ross Anderson, Denison// 2023 December Calendar
by Gippsland Jersey
Where is your farm located?
How long have you been in the dairy industry?
I've been home since 2006 which makes it 17 years nearly.
What made you come back?
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to come home and give it ago. It was always an option that I had. I’m a builder by trade and I was living in Perth. Mum and Dad were working pretty hard, so I had the opportunity to come home and help out. I was like, ‘well if I don't do it now, I might never do it’. At 30 I came home and have given it a proper go and I went and did all the required training.
What do you love about being a dairy farmer?
I love growing grass, and turning it into milk, the science of how well they can go if you can look after them. Now that I’ve been home for a while, I feel more connected to the land and some of it's been in the family a few generations. I work on the farm with my partner, Jen and I’m in a really happy place right now in my life. We have fully embraced the dairy industry.
What gets you out of bed everyday?
I believe a good sleep is foundational to mental health, so that’s a priority to me. I love just walking out the back door and seeing the green paddocks and happy cows. It takes a lot of work, but we are responsible for the animals’ welfare. I’ve had times in my life where I didn’t get the juggle between career and family quite right, so I have had to make some tough choices to resign from certain vocations to ensure I can manage to be there for my family and have time to focus on my own mental health and such.
Well to juggle kids who live a couple of hours away, a dairy farm, a new relationship, and community/industry commitments… how do you do it?
I feel at times like I’m juggling eggs. I'll probably drop a few every now and then, but I hope to not crack any, I am trying to not put too many in the air at the moment. Dairy farming can be diverse enough without doing anything else!
How have you managed to stay sane and look after yourself through this time?
I have a great support team. I now have an amazing partner in Jen, and we work well together. I'm not afraid to be vulnerable and I talk about my challenges which I think is very important. It’s also important to listen to others and help where you can. I have learned along the way the importance of getting enough sleep, exercise and time out. For me, I try to start my day with three glasses of water and focus on achieving the goals I have set out for myself. Having a clear vision and making choices that will see that vision come to fruition is important to me. As a farmer I find time when I’m in the tractor to listen to mindset podcasts and keep myself above the line. It’s easy to fall below the line when grey clouds set in, but moving through this is about choice. It’s not always easy but I find that you grow through what you go through. Some of my biggest learnings have come from my toughest times.
Have you always been like that?
No, I have had days below the line, I have had to seek out people to talk to. Having good support, friends and family is very helpful.
Is there anything that you do physically to look after yourself, Ross?
I've gone back to trying to be consistent with non-work related exercise, I use a chiro and have regular saunas, I haven’t nailed a strict meditation practice, but can understand the benefits. There’s plenty of extra things I could do! Most books I listen to are about self-help and mindset, so I'm continually learning and growing.
So, when you're driving the tractor, for example, do you try to incorporate some breathing and learning?
Yeah, it's nourishing to the mind, but at the same time I’m physically working so it's awesome! And you get no interruptions. I'm obviously responsible for so many decisions, daily decisions, and this causes some mental fatigue at times. I love the simplicity of milking cows. I can’t leave in the middle of miking so I’m able to just be present. In other life situations, you can get caught up in your head, which is probably why I do listen to lots of podcasts and books and stuff like that.
It’s super interesting that you are so mindful about your personal inputs Ross.
I have my kids every second weekend and try to be my best for them, be present, to make the most of the 48 hours that I get with them. Farming gives me the ability to have flexibility. I always thought a farm was a great place for kids to grow up. Gratitude for me is a big thing. It's not always easy. It does take some tools to be grateful. If you're not getting anywhere with it, there might be a bigger problem. You know you've got to adapt, be able to deal with whatever the climate is throwing at you. The sun always comes up the next day.