The Wairarapa Rural Women’s Initiative on its trip to Marlborough earlier this year. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

BECKIE WILSON
beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

Rural isolation is not limited to how far out of town you live, but also where to turn when the pressures within farming life get too much.

Feelings of isolation are not limited to rural men, which led a group of Wairarapa women to band together to combat the issue.

The Wairarapa Rural Women’s Initiative began four years ago after Lynley Wyeth, Lucy Thornycroft and Ellie Cranswick felt they needed something else for “us farming ladies”, committee chairwoman Wyeth said.

“We were working, had young children, and we couldn’t make it to our husbands’ discussion groups – we wanted an education forum for the ladies,” Wyeth said.

The group, which meets every six weeks, started with about 20 members, but has since expanded into two groups with about 45 members. Membership extends from Dannevirke to South Wairarapa.

“We have everybody from women on the ground farming, to mums who are supporting their husbands with their rural businesses, to rural professionals,” she said. “It’s about education, comradery and support.

“Isolation can be geographical isolation but also isolation in terms of who do I reach out to, who is feeling the pressure of farming, the pressure of the weather, or debt, or lamb prices. It’s community pressure as well.

“We are all in it together, but we often don’t know we are all feeling it.”

The group at a bull selection session.

The members take turns choosing what the topic of each meeting will be. They have completed sessions on health and safety, animal health, how to use chainsaws, addictions, butchery and financial planning.

The decision to split into two groups was to keep the sessions “a little more personal”.

“It’s like everything that happens on tour stays on tour,” Wyeth said.

“We really open up about our businesses, our issues, thoughts and feelings, so we are very trusting of who is in our groups.”

The group, an incorporated society, were unaware of any similar groups, but have since heard from like-minded women asking for tips on how to start and structure a group for their area, Wyeth said.

Their first away trip was held earlier this year, with a group of women travelling to Blenheim to meet Doug Avery, a farmer who speaks out about resilience in the rural community.

To find out more about the group, contact lynleywyeth@yahoo.co.nz