Growing up on a farm in New’s Zealand’s Oamaru has given Dana a lifelong passion for the outdoors and farming. Now residing in the Hakataramea Valley, Dana lives the best of both worlds combining her love for farming and animals with her passion for creativity as a graphic designer, illustrator and photographer. Running her own business Dana Johnston Imagery, she helps rural businesses and entrepreneurs, while still managing to get her hands dirty on the farm breeding simmental studs and rearing calves.  

When asked what concerned Dana about the health and safety of those in rural industries and communities, one of Dana’s biggest worries is when she has to tackle a new task on the farm, alone and with nobody else around. She has relied on the tutorial advice of YouTube or Google, but says if that failed, calling her husband or asking her neighbours for help was the real key for support. Dana believes that taking the time to “Stop. Think. Assess.” a situation is vital in ensuring you get the job done safely, as is asking for help if you aren’t sure how or what to do.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Creative, practical, determined. 

Tell me something interesting about yourself...

I grew up on a small farm near Oamaru where I completed my high school years. Soon after I took on an apprenticeship as a sign maker, qualifying in 2006. The practical skills and knowledge gained from that career path has really set me up for my current lifestyle. My husband and I purchased our current farm in 2013 where we breed Simmental stud stock and rear calves. Always a hands-on person, I have adapted well to the ways of country living and all that it entails. Living rurally has not stopped me from setting up my own graphic design, illustration and photography business either, as I have the flexibility of working from home. Many opportunities, near and far, are within perfect reach in this digital age we live in.

What's one achievement you are most proud of?

Being able to combine my two passions – farm life and creativity. I get to work with and promote so many different rural businesses and entrepreneurs, helping them to build from the ground up. 

What makes you truly happy?

The animals, especially my dogs. They’re always happy to see me, always ready for a game! 

What do you love the most about being a rural woman?

I once would’ve said the big wide open spaces and the remoteness, but I have since learnt it’s the community that surrounds me that makes living rurally special. The friends I have made are true gems. They offer great company, share laughter and tears, and we all help, encourage and support each other in our own ways.

Tell me about a time when you felt worried about your own or someone else’s health, safety or wellbeing on the farm, boat or in some other aspect of rural life.

When I have to tackle a new, unfamiliar task on the farm alone when the hubby is away working. 

What practical things did or could you, your partner and / or others do to prevent someone from getting hurt?

Stop. Think. Assess. If I don’t know how to do something, Google and YouTube are my best friends. If I still need advice, I phone a friend (the hubby) – although in really tricky situations I’ll ring a close neighbour to come and help. 

"Ask for help! Ask your neighbour, friend or family to hang out your washing, to make you a cup of tea – especially if it’s the difference between catching your breath or drowning in a never ending to-do list."

Is there a time, place or scenario when your partner / workers are more willing to make changes to the way work is done? 

When they are happy. I think we are all more open to change when we have a positive attitude. 

If you could give any advice to another rural woman about work health and safety in rural industries, about influencing change in business - or just in general - what would it be?

Unlike other industries, our work life is not often separated from our home lives. The work/life ‘balance’ is rarely actually balanced. Be careful of this – it’s all too easy to work around the clock and always feel like you’re chasing your tail, especially at peak seasons. Ask for help! Ask your neighbour, friend or family to hang out your washing, to make you a cup of tea – especially if it’s the difference between catching your breath or drowning in a never ending to-do list. Burnout is a serious issue, be conscious of it, accidents happen when people are exhausted and are unable to focus. Get the rest, take the break, look after yourself first and you will make it through the season safely!

Share your story!

Everybody knows someone who could be making smarter, safer and healthier choices.

No matter what role you play, where you live or what you do, we all have a responsibility to look out for the health, safety and wellbeing of ourselves and those around us.  

30 years ago no-one wore seatbelts. Today we do it without even thinking about it.

Join the conversation today.

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