Isolation combined with the pressure of running a business from home means some farmers are putting their own wellbeing and mental health on the backburner.
The Grays are among 20 riders preparing to join the cycle tour from Ngatea to Bluff from March 18 to April 2.
The tour and supporting Farmstrong Challenge is to encourage farmers to think about the benefits cardio exercise can have on their overall physical and emotional wellbeing and how this can help with their work onfarm.
Glenda, a keen sportswoman, has recently suffered injuries that have slowed her down and severely affected her fitness.
"Cycling has been my saviour," she says. "I enjoy getting off the farm and riding with a huge range of like-minded people."
Neil, a keen rugby man and tramper, was drawn into cycling by his wife's enthusiasm for the sport. It's now an activity they enjoy together, getting them into the outdoors.
"It was an easy decision to say 'yes' to tour organiser Ian Handcock when he asked us to help promote wellbeing to other farmers.
"My family has farmed land in the Hauraki Plains for 100 years, and in the 30 years I've been in the agricultural sector I've seen big changes in farming practices," he says.
"Farmers these days are more stressed and face new pressures. To help overcome these challenges it's critical that farmers place more emphasis on looking after themselves, the better to look after their family, and their business – in short, steps to live and farm well."
Farm consultant Ian Handcock organised the tour following his research with Kelloggs.
"I thought we farmers were pretty fit, given we're out and about all day – and some certainly are. But the increased use of farm machinery, and other factors such as poor diet and stress, mean many of us are not in good trim and are at risk of serious illness such as heart disease.
"Adding a jog, walk or bike ride every now and then can have a big difference on our physical health, and our emotional wellbeing too, and it gives us a chance to get off the farm."
The Grays, Hancock and the rest of the Fit4Farming cycling group will host five Farmstrong event days across the country. Local farmers, growers and anyone connected with the primary sector are invited to take part in a small exercise challenge.
Farmers may also take part in the Farmstrong Challenge, a bid to get rural Kiwis to collectively clock up 4 million km of exercise by July 2.