Keeping fit in both body and mind makes the hard graft on the farm much easier – then it’s enjoyable.
This is the mindset of Kane Brisco, a dairy farmer from Inglewood. After a turning point in his life, fitness and farming is now what keeps the 36-year-old happy. And he now helps other farmers through his online and outdoor gym Farm Fit NZ programmes.
For two years, he’s been the dairy manager for Hamish and Emma Lawn, who own the 132-hectare effective Rerekapa dairy farm. Kane and his wife Nicole, a nurse, have three young children – all budding farming and fitness enthusiasts.
Sitting at a fairly high exposed altitude, 400 metres above sea level and close to Mt Taranaki, the Inglewood farm bears the brunt of high rainfall. “It’s a challenging climate, so I like to keep a pretty simple farm system, so the cows are outside most of the time, but warm inside our herd houses when it’s cold – a good mix.”
“I enjoy the animals and the land. It feels good for my soul, to be outside and see the sunrise. The natural world is quite peaceful for me. However, it’s certainly not for the money or easy hours. I had to find a way to enjoy the hard stuff – if you don’t, you simply lose your love for it.”
“Eight years ago, I got into a mental hole and ended up hating farming. The catalyst to change was I had a lot of debt so I had to work harder with a family to support. But I had become unfit as I stopped playing rugby, partly due to a broken ankle.”
“You can’t have good mental health without physical health. And if you are in a positive mindset, with a purpose, it is amazing what can be achieved.”
“So I built an outdoor gym for local farmers, with a regular boot camp. Once I got myself and the farm right, I launched Farm Fit on social media in 2019. A lot of people are feeling pressure and stress. Physical fitness means less fatigue and better decision-making. Many farmers are quite fit after calving, so I thought why not get fit beforehand?”
“A lot of decisions in life are reactive, but a little preparation for the hard stuff goes a long way. We start in summer, and once calving hits, you’re feeling good and strong.”
If Kane were to pick one of his top exercises, this is it: “It’s hard not to go past the Farmer’s Carry. It’s a really strong focus on your back and your core. It’s easy, simple and safe. Imagine a couple of buckets and containers and walk from 25 to 150 metre. Use anything like water, or I use sand which is heavier.”
“Bracing with your core, shoulders back and stand tall and proud.” After 12-hour days, he still made time to write a book last year – Tools for the Top Paddock. Every chapter is a story of a challenge overcome which is now in libraries and bookstores. Harnessing his inspiration, he’s also turned his hand to public speaking.
With the goal of improving his farm, he wants to find more ways to help farmers’ physical and mental health, so they can make better farm systems. “You can’t have good mental health without physical health. And if you are in a positive mindset, with a purpose, it is amazing what can be achieved.”
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