Shelley Field, Yarram - July// 2024 Mental Health Calendar

by Gippsland Jersey

Shelley exemplifies the tenacity and heart often found at the core of the dairy industry. In light of the round-the-clock nature of dairy farming, she juggles the relentless demands of her family's century-old dairy operation in Yarram with the essential care required by her son Nathan, who lives with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Nathan's reliance on a wheelchair and need for assistance with daily activities adds an additional layer to Shelley's demanding schedule. Despite these challenges, she navigates the farm's needs with a willingness to implement new strategies, aiming to create a more balanced approach to living on the land.

Her life took a drastic turn when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2021. Undergoing 14 rounds of chemotherapy, Shelley faced the physical debilitation that comes with such an aggressive treatment regimen. During this time, her resilience was tested as she balanced her health needs with the operational demands of calving, milking, and managing farm staff. “For the first four days (post chemo) I was just on the couch, couldn't do anything and I couldn't even go outside because the sun would burn me. I just physically couldn't do it. I was that exhausted.”

The cancer battle was a pivot point for Shelley, leading to an invaluable shift in her approach to managing the dairy farm. She learned the power of delegation, bringing in additional milkers and relying more heavily on her support team including her mother who’s help with Nathan was invaluable during this period.

This step back also brought a shift in perspective on time and urgency, leading to a more sustainable approach to farm management. The realization that not all tasks require immediate completion allowed for a healthier work-life balance and underscored the importance of prioritizing tasks effectively. “I've learned that things can actually wait till tomorrow. They don't have to happen today.”

This change in mindset extended beyond farm management to personal life as well. Shelley and her family, found solace and recreation in small yet significant traditions like spending time at the bar in their impressive self-built pub and enjoying camping trips by the river. These leisure activities became integral to their routine, emphasizing the importance of quality of life alongside work. For Shelley, a balanced approach is essential for long term success. “You've got to have a job that you don't need a holiday from I reckon.”

Shelley's narrative is an inspiring testament to the robust spirit necessary in the dairy industry. Her adept handling of a large-scale dairy operation, despite the personal trials of her son's disability and her own health challenges, showcases an impressive capacity for resilience and adaptability. Her experience underscores that with the right mindset and support, it's possible to navigate the toughest times while still finding joy and fulfillment in both the demanding work of dairy farming and the invaluable moments spent with family.



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