Profile: Farm Fit NZ

By: Katie White

Kane Brisco founded Farm Fit NZ to help others in his community become stronger people and better farmers

Every day, choose a little bit of hard. That’s Kane Brisco’s best advice for becoming the strongest version of yourself. He says it was a combination of sports training and life on the farm that helped him tune into the connection between physical and mental fitness, and from there, the idea behind Farm Fit was born.

Breaking down barriers

Kane Brisco

Kane was the typical Kiwi kid, growing up playing cricket in the summer and rugby in the winter.

"I was always quite small and pretty average, but definitely a trier."

At 18, it was boxing that changed Kane’s approach to sport after the local rugby club hosted a Fight for Life fundraiser. He put his hand up, got training, and loved the mental and physical challenge of his first fight.

"There was a massive shift in my mindset; I gained a bunch of confidence and self-assurance from being fit and strong. It empowered me because I went far out of my comfort zone and did something pretty tough."

From that day, Kane wanted to start a boxing gym based on his desire to pass onto others the lessons he’d learned from his experiences in the ring.

"It was a huge boost for my footy and farming as well because I was fit, strong, and focused on achieving. Suddenly, I had this newfound strength to take on challenges and push myself to overcome them."

That planted the initial seed.

Pivotal moments

DIY gym equipment is key to Kane’s Farm Fit philosophy

Kane carries fond memories from childhood holidays on his uncle’s farm into his 50/50 sharemilking work today.

"From an early age, I remember I just loved being outside with the animals, the tractors, and everything about it. It was probably always going to be what I ended up doing."

Kane recalls his first job on a dry stock farm as being a trial by fire. A short-term filler position while the owner found a new manager stretched to five years when the responsibility soon fell to Kane.

"I was given the reins to the farm and learnt a lot of lessons the hard way but was extremely excited by the opportunity and the good, hard, physical work."

He took those learnings into dairy farming, now milking 210 cows a day in Taranaki. Water on the seed occurred at the start of a new calving season, having stepped away from boxing and rugby the preceding winter.

"The fatigue of not being fit and in good shape started to affect my energy levels and decision-making. My enthusiasm for the job went down the gurgler. I started tumbling into this bad mind space and things on the farm were being impacted by how unfit I was."

Making change

Boxing is where it all began

That hard season was compounded by the low payout years that followed. Stuck in a weak mindset and a financially high-pressure situation caused Kane to lose a lot of love for the industry. He says it took a long couple of years to start seeing light again at the end of the tunnel.

"I was miserable in that situation and knew I had to do something to get myself out of it, so chose to get myself back in the ring. It really helped me turn a corner."

He believes having a healthy outlet, something to focus on for a couple of hours each day that you enjoy, is critical, especially during the dark times. Knowing other farmers around New Zealand were struggling through many of the same challenges was when the idea for Farm Fit started to sprout.

"I’d come home feeling refreshed and ready to take on tomorrow. I thought, I’ve gone and done this for myself and I’m in a better space than I was before; what can I do to share the value in this with the other people around me?"

Farm Fit NZ

Proud Taranaki farmer passing on his love for the country life

For nearly three years now, Kane has been keeping it real on the Farm Fit Facebook page while passing onto others what he has learned from years of experience on the farm and in the sports arena.

‘Provide information and be inspiration’ is the Farm Fit mantra. His straight-up, no-excuses attitude towards leading a fit farming lifestyle has attracted a loyal following of farmers who continually find value in his cowshed koreros and old-school approach to exercising using nature’s gym.

He believes part of this comes back to the relatability of what he does: content created for farmers by a farmer who understands what they’re going through.

"I think the rural sector needs that relatable aspect," he says, "to cut through and make change on a more personal level."

Ultimately, Kane hopes to shine a light on the benefits of enduring immediate struggle for future benefit and provide his viewers with the tools they’ll need to put this idea into practice. His hope is to create a network where every district has a Farm Fit farm where people can come together and do something positive for themselves, whether that’s through tyre flipping, squats with DIY dirtbag weights, or gathering to have an honest yarn about how they’re doing.

"It’s important for rural communities to have their own outlet of something positive, and exercise ticks all the boxes."

Vulnerability is strength

Spending time with the cows helped Kane reconnect with his purpose

Kane believes that taking lessons from participating in both team and individual sports can have a powerful impact on our growth as athletes, farmers, and people.

"For me, individual sports are really important in finding out who you are because there’s no one else, so you learn to rely on yourself. Team sports are important for their social aspect, in terms of bonding with other people and working together to feel like you’re part of something."

Kane has applied many lessons from boxing into his life as a farmer, in particular, coming to terms with having nowhere to hide in the ring – you’re forced to be vulnerable.

He says, it’s through the tough times, when we face our fears and put ourselves in those uncomfortable situations, that we build character and become stronger.

"We realise what we are capable of. Farm Fit is about trying to encourage others to experience that. At the end of the day, we just want to be better people and better farmers."

Doing the mahi

Walking the talk: Kane running 21km in gumboots in support of Gumboot Friday

Kane gets it, though, overcoming the psychological barriers that stop us from starting is hard to do.

"We have to understand that all the good stuff we do for ourselves – going to the gym, cooking a healthy meal – has a long-term rewards system, so the results are hard to see. We have to steer away from this culture of instant gratification to really tune into our values and what we want for the future."

He emphasises the importance of knowing yourself and learning to replace bad habits with something positive and simple that you can easily implement into your every day. For example, leaving your running shoes by the front door and putting them on as soon as you get home to remove any temptation to immediately lie on the couch. It’s important to audit your daily habits and recognise the triggers for them.

"When you choose hard and overcome a challenge, you’re growing your ability to be resilient," he says.

Mindset matters

As part of a new initiative backed by the Ministry for Primary Industries, Kane oversaw the training programme for a young farmers’ boot camp in Manawatu for six weeks through June and July.

The aim was to dedicate time and space for building fitness while supporting mental healthiness; empowering young farmers to cope with, and learn to overcome, the everyday challenges of living and breathing the farm life is a huge part of this.

Kane believes that "it doesn’t matter who you are, your background, or the situation you’re in, life will throw hard at you whether you like it or not.

"We just need to accept this as fact and learn to adapt. Choose a little bit of short-term hard so that the long-term is not insurmountable."

Remember your ‘why’

One of the most important things that Kane says he did to help himself overcome adversities was to reconnect with his purpose, the reasons behind why he wanted to be a farmer.

"That was huge for me because it took me back to when I was six years old on my uncle’s farm, falling in love with farming and being outside. It was playing with the calves, being in the tractor, building things, and having a laugh with my uncle that gave me a real grounding and an appreciation for the country life.

"I want to provide my kids with the experiences I had growing up."

Reconnecting to those roots reminded Kane to be more present on the farm and gave him the incentive to stop and smell the roses more often. He advocates for the importance of practising gratitude in shaping a positive outlook on each new day.

"It’s a simple concept: look after yourself and then your mind and body will look after you. I’m more passionate about the industry now than I ever was."

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