Wayne Langford started his You Only Live Once (YOLO) Farmer blog in 2017. It was his 34th birthday. When he launched it, things seemed to be pretty good — if you only looked at the surface of his life. He was married to a loving wife, had three healthy boys, and was running a successful dairy farm. He was Federated Farmers' national dairy vice-chairman and a sixth-generation farmer who, once-a-day, milked his 250 cows on his Golden Bay farm in New Zealand.
But beneath this calm exterior, he was in turmoil and suffering from a deep depression. According to Langford, he had been having issues with his mental health for at least nine months, but he notes that the timelines are a little murky. His depression could have been affecting him for as long as 18 months.
Langford notes that, all of this time, he had been suffering in science. He refused to name or discuss this illness because he was worried that he would be labelled "weak." He seemed to have everything, so he felt ashamed of his feelings and thoughts. "It's something I hadn't talked about and, we hadn't used the word depression in our household, but my wife was aware something wasn't right,” Langford notes.
To characterize exactly what he was experiencing, Langford uses a farm metaphor, noting that his brain had "cooked itself" like a tractor engine.
After he finally confronted this truth head-on, Langford began his journey with the YOLO Farmer blog — he and his wife, Tyler, grabbed their kids, jumped in their car, and committed to spend a year doing one thing each day to show that they’d truly lived. The blog was a way of chronicling their journey.
As Langford puts it, his "engine needed to be cooled down and the damage repaired before it could achieve great things again.” The couple notes that, initially, they told family and friends that they were just trying to celebrate life; however, as time went on, they finally began to open up, and eventually, they revealed the mental health issues that truly spawned the project. They say that they have received nothing but support.
Although the project was initially meant to be just a year long, the Langford family is well over 750 days in. What is even more remarkable is that Langford didn’t experience change by climbing Mt. Everest or accomplishing other grand feats. Instead, he found peace and joy in being with family and friends, in participating in community activities, and in relishing in the simple, everyday things that comprise our lives. "I found it was the little things that made me feel alive,” he said.
Now, in addition to his farming, he spends his time helping others learn how to fight depression and experience joy. Since he began his journey, Langford has become a board member of Te Whare Mahana Trust at Takaka, which provides community-based mental health services and related employment and vocational services to those in need.
Ultimately, Langford’s story is a story of how a change in perspective can change your business, your family’s life, your community, and your mental health. He is the #YOLOFarmer, and his work has been heralded as a call to view farming life through a different lens and to be open and unafraid of discussing mental health issues. Discover how he learned to find joy in the video above.