Raised in Hughensville in regional Northern QLD, Sam Fryer is a bloke that had a supportive upbringing, received a good education and is now involved in the operations of his family-owned property. With a wife and two children of his own, Sam’s life seems to look and sound pretty good on paper. As we have discovered, it’s important to dig a little deeper. Beneath the unassuming happy-go-lucky life of Sam, is the story of a man who has faced more life challenges than he can count on one hand.
In this episode, Sam opens up and shares some incredibly heart-wrenching tales that he went through from his childhood, right up to the present day as a devoted dad. Through facing testing hardships like growing up with a sister who had special needs, managing mental health demons, seeing the loss of a close mate, suffering serious injuries and navigating the challenges of family succession planning, Sam has been on a tough and turbulent journey.
One of the reasons that makes Sam’s story so great is how he has chosen to use his life experiences as a catalyst to be more positive and appreciative. Despite all that he has been through, Sam has a profound optimism and zest for life that is simply infectious.
Sam came onto our radar during Movember last year when he was looking for an agriculture related team to support. After a chat, we were immediately blown away by his story and knew it had to be shared with the Humans of Agriculture audience. Sam is a true storyteller who will steal your undivided attention and leave you feeling grateful for the simplest things in life, like your arms and legs.
Following on from last week, if you need someone to talk to or you're worried about a friend or family member you can reach out to the TIACS support line and either text or call them on 0488 846 988.
Disabilities in the bush
An area that is rarely mentioned or given the attention it deserves is disabilities in the bush. Being in a remote location can make things more difficult in terms of barriers like healthcare accessibility and support. Sam's family faced these circumstances head on with his younger sister Alex being born with cerebral palsy. For the Fryer family, that meant regularly taking the 4-hour trip to Townsville for appointments with specialists while still trying to manage the family farm, bring in an income and raise three kids.
For their family and the community, it was a normal and accepted part of their lives as they never knew any different. Sam reflects that the support of neighbours and locals really helped their family manage the challenges. “Where we lived, we had some amazing people just down the road that would come up and help Mum on the place when Dad was away. Without the community around us I don’t know how they would have done it.”
The role of the local community in supporting families just like the Fryers is critical, whether that is checking in, helping with school drop offs or checking water. Sam credits these years as fundamentally shaping him and is passionate about giving back to those around him.
"It's a massive part of who I am and who my parents are. We are involved in a lot in the community and with events, it's one way for us to say thankful for those years when I was younger" he said.
Another topic woven throughout the discussion is around mental health and specifically the role and exposure people working in agriculture and Rural Australia have to it. For an industry where workers can often be isolated and spend time alone, it has become increasingly important for mates to watch out for each other and ask if they’re okay. With Sam connecting with HoA for Movember – it was clear that advocating for mental health was an important issue close to his heart.
Sam reflects that even from a young age, he felt the heavy weight of his life challenges taking a toll on him. “I needed to see someone and needed to talk to someone,” Sam recalls, after his move to boarding school as a young adolescent. “I came from a school of five to a school of 1,500 and I had just lost my best mate. I just wish I had of had someone to talk to during that time.”
Through his very own up and down roller coaster, Sam shares the insight and wisdom he learnt on how to overcome his struggles and help his mates beat theirs too. He is a beacon of knowledge, who really positions you to stop and realise that we all have a part to play in helping those around us and starting conversations.
“It can’t just be a couple times a year that we decide to call our mate and see if they’re okay, it’s all during the year. If you know something’s wrong with your mates you should be able to give them a buzz.”
After seeking professional support and having a network of loved ones, Sam shared that he has reached a really strong point in his life. This is significantly noticeable through the way he speaks and shares his ideas. After a tumultuous set of circumstances, it remains his priority to focus on the positives and be grateful for the little things.
In the podcast, you’ll hear Sam touch on his idea that he actually feels lucky. It’s a powerful moment that highlights how we can give ourselves so much strength through the way we process the bad times. Sam said, “I’m very lucky, I suppose I probably keep saying that but mate I’ve got two legs and I can walk around, and you know I’ve got both my arms still which is pretty lucky on another level. The experience I’ve had has made me the person I am today. I am thankful for that. it changes my view on the world and makes me appreciate everything a bit more because I’m still here.”
To listen to the podcast, head to the Humans of Agriculture channel on Apple or Spotify and select Episode 36 “HoA ‘I’m lucky’ with Sam Fryer”.