Designed by farmers for farmers as part of the National Centre for Farmer Health’s Primary Producer Knowledge Network, the innovative online FREE Campfire platform supports farmers to network, find practical solutions, and proactively prevent risks to mental health in their workplaces. Up and running for 3 months now, the Campfire is lit every Wednesday at 7:30pm; with facilitated Bonfire events every alternate Wednesday. Bonfire events are Q&A sessions with guest experts and farmers from across Victoria – working in industries from cattle to cropping to financial planning and beyond.
Topics for Q&A Bonfire events address key risks to mental health in Victorian agriculture—such as workplace relationships, periods of high demand, role clarity and change management—in practical and relatable ways. As Sally Cunningham—Campfire Project Manager for the National Centre for Farmer Health—explains, “In recent months around the Bonfire, we have yarned about real world farming challenges and solutions on topics like succession planning, farm safety, family business, communication and resilience to environmental extremes.” Alternate Wednesdays are Campfire nights where farmers engage in more informal text-based chat with other Victorian producers on topics of their choice that can be tailored to their industry. Hugh Macdonald, sheep farmer and regular Campfire contributor, believes “the Campfire project is a brilliant way to engage farmers regarding their mental health”. Preventing risks to mental health, rather than waiting till things reach crisis point, is what Campfire is all about.
“Not comfortable with online chat?” asks Sally Cunningham, “You can access information on all our topics through complementary podcast episodes, blog posts and other resources addressing various work-related risks to mental health. These incorporate commentary from experts and farmers as well as helpful resources and scenarios we can all learn from.”
Mike Krause, an expert in farm business decision making, believes “the Campfire Chat format is special, as you can ask difficult questions to people you can trust, while remaining anonymous. It’s simple and easy to participate, and you can be anywhere in Australia.” Andrew Edgar, a family farmer from the Western District can also see the benefits of the platform. As he explains, “The Campfire platform puts everyone on an even plane and allows everyone to have input and ask questions.”
If you are a primary producer who finds your workplace generates undue levels of stress for you, your family or your workers, maybe it’s time you joined the Campfire discussions. You’ll soon be able to identify factors in your work systems that can be changed to create a fairer, happier, and healthier workplace, which ultimately will have positive benefits for your business profitability and your mental health. As a participant, you can propose topics for discussion with experts or other farmers, or just drop a few questions into the fortnightly Q&A.
“We have some great topics coming up for discussion over the next few months,” explain Sally Cunningham. “These include supporting the next generation of primary producers, seasonal and contract labour, working dogs, bushfire preparedness, strategies for decision making, staying socially connected and managing fatigue. Something to suit every farmer and every farming business.”
Which one will you join?
More information about the Primary Producer Knowledge Network can be found here: https://farmerhealth.org.au/primary-producer-knowledge-network
The Campfire digital platform can be accessed here: https://farmerhealth.org.au/campfire
The Primary Producer Knowledge Network and the Campfire platform is being funded by the Victorian Government’s WorkSafe WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund[JM(3] . WorkWell Toolkit – WorkWell | WorkSafe Victoria