Tell us about your business and how it started?
I started ACT for Ag in 2020 after winning the 2020 SA AgriFutures Rural Women's Award. My business has changed and adapted over the past three years (haven't we all?) but at the heart, it's about building the resilience and wellbeing of rural Australia.
I realised I had a unique perspective and story as both a psychologist and a farmer. In 2020, we were two years into the worst drought we've ever experienced, and I realised there was a gap in preventative type approaches - providing people with accessible tools to improve their wellbeing, even during tough times.
I initially approached this through running workshops and online courses, which I am still providing, however my most exciting next step is the launch of the community and online membership. The community and membership aims to bring together rural women who are struggling with the juggle of farm, family and life, so that we can learn to let go of the struggle, embrace the juggle, and show up as who we truly want to be.
What is your biggest achievement in business?
It's definitely been a mix of personal and business achievements.
I've been fortunate to win a couple of awards - the 2020 SA AgriFutures Rural Women's Award and the 2021 Safework SA Augusta Zadow Award - which have both provided financial support to get the business up and running, but also the confirmation that this space and business is needed.
On a personal level, for me it's also those little "ah-huh" moments I see when working with people, and hearing from people the difference that the skills have made in their lives.
I think I am living and breathing it every day, so it's just as much a personal exercise for me - remembering to put the ideas and exercises of ACT for Ag into practice, and really walking the walk - which has helped me improve my life and my relationships in my family.
What has been the most challenging aspect of owning your own business?
Oh gosh, where to start! It's really the small, daily practical stuff. We have a pretty large farm business, so as much as I love ACT for Ag - between the farm, three small boys, there is a lot of juggling going on. Learning to delegate, let go and remember that I can't do everything is definitely a constant learning point and challenge.
One of the main challenges is navigating new ground, as creating a community is a fairly new and innovative approach, compared with the traditional approach of one to one therapy I was taught as a psychologist.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of owning your own business?
Being able to create something to work into my life - creating a job and business that works for me, rather than vice versa. This is still a work in progress, but it's really exciting to be able to create something that supports and helps others, as well as providing me space and time to help my husband on our farm and be mum to our boys.
I definitely haven't found the secret recipe to "doing it all", but when I pause and reflect it's pretty awesome that I have been able to create a business that is flexible around our needs.
I've also recently been loving opportunities to get away and run workshops or speak in different areas, "absence makes the heart grow fonder" and it's nice to have a breather from regular life, it also gets my husband to slow down on the farm for a couple of days and have time with the kids.
What is your next big project?
We are kicking off the ACT for Ag membership - Navigate for Her.
The Navigate for Her membership brings together rural women who are struggling with the juggle of farm, family and life, so that we can learn to let go of the struggle, embrace the juggle, and show up as who we truly want to be.
Each month we will have a monthly masterclass with myself and an awesome guest - exploring different themes and ideas for managing the juggle (I'm really excited about the line up for the rest of 2022). There will also be monthly "cuppa on the couch" sessions, weekly reminders, and access to other resources and short courses.
I think the greatest benefit of creating a community is really around the support and accountability, already it's becoming a beautiful space to connect with other women who just "get" some of the struggles that we face, but also lift and encourage each other.
What keeps you up at night?
I've recently realised just how invisible women's mental health within farming is. I did a couple of informal polls on Instagram and LinkedIn, and the vast majority of people automatically think of a male farmer out in a paddock when they think of "farmer mental health".
However, another poll on who does the bookwork, and whether or not women get maternity leave or support around their roles on the farm when they have small kids, showed that the majority of the finances and bookwork is done by women, and for almost all women this continues - whether they have a newborn baby, three kids under seven, working an off farm job, etc. And yet, almost no one thinks of a woman at home or in the office, when they think about farmer mental health
This discrepancy about what we think of when we think of when we think about "farmer mental health" means that there is almost another layer of invisibleness when we think about female farmer mental health. Added to that, is that research actually shows that female farmers experience more psychological distress than male farmers - however this really isn't spoken about much at all.
These factors, plus my own personal experience of the pressure and challenges of running a farm, trying to keep my relationship with my husband not just surviving but actually healthy, as well as raising and trying to build a loving home for our boys - really drives me to build and grow ACT for Ag and the Navigate for Her community.
What do you love most about where you live?
The space. We live on a beautiful big farm, with hills on either side of the horizon.
When we first moved here, my husband said to me, "One day we will own as far as we can see" - and we do now (or the bank does, but we are working on that).
And, as someone who grew up in the city - it really is a very special thing to bring up a family on land that we own and care for, to watch our crops and livestock grow, and just to have the space to be able to breathe and get grounded.
ACT for Ag is founded by Steph Schmidt, clinical psychologist, farmer, wife, mum and fellow juggler. Join the ACT for Ag community and connect with other rural women struggling with the juggle of farm, family and life.