John and Bronny Gladigau on holidays in Venice
There have been plenty of good times for the Gladigaus including children, friendships and travel. Image by HANDOUT/SUPPLIED
  • agriculture

Online tool helps farmers cultivate love on the land

Liv Casben March 23, 2024

After 34 years of marriage, farmer John Gladigau is fairly well versed in the language of love but it’s taken some practice.

For those three-plus decades, the grain grower and his wife Bronny lived on Bunyarra, 34 km outside the South Australian border town of Loxton.

“You will go a week without seeing other people, apart from each other,” he told AAP.

Being the only adult company to one another for days on end while running a business and juggling family has had its stresses, especially in times of drought.

But there have also been plenty of good times: raising two now adult children, firm friendships and regular travel including overseas holidays.

“You tend to rely on each other more than the rest of society does,” Mr Gladigau said.

“We probably argued more than we should have … There were times when we grew apart a bit before we came back together.”

While the couple share a strong bond, it’s required considerable effort.

“Our relationship … is as strong now as the day we were married but, boy, you have to work at it,” Mr Gladigau said.

Enter rural health experts from the University of South Australia, who have developed an online resource aimed at helping farmers grow and maintain wholesome personal connections.

John and Bronny Gladigau on their farm “Bunyarra”
 John and Bronny Gladigau say their relationship is strong but has involved plenty of hard work. Image by HANDOUT/SUPPLIED 

The Gladigaus have been among the first to test it out, finding it “really, really helpful”.

The free modules allow farmers to check in on their relationships, with tips on how to repair them when things get tough.

“In our early married life, I really wish I had … tools and strategies of how to make it stronger,” Mr Gladigau said.

“It would have made life easier.”

UniSA’s Chloe Fletcher helped develop the ifarmwell resource, which she hopes will also assist farmers’ mental health.

“Farmers do face unique challenges related to their work and lifestyle,” she said.

“They tend to be more physically and socially isolated than people in the city. They often spend more time with their partner – not only living and socialising but often also working together.”

ifarmwell features advice on how to manage stress and navigate conflict, and is based on a decade of research with input from hundreds of farmers and supporters from the health and agriculture sectors.

“I think the best tip in there is what you can do when you are triggered to manage stress and bring yourself back to a state of calm,” Dr Fletcher said.