Monday, May 20, 2019

Better support needed to ease ‘huge pressure’ on farmers

May 1, 2019 by  
Filed under News & Business

Greater recognition and support is needed to help Britain’s farming families meet the challenges facing UK agriculture over the coming years, says a report.

Backed by an industry forum of 24 farming charities, rural organisations and support groups, the report paints a picture of an agricultural industry with lots of potential – but an urgent need for a more holistic approach to support if people working in the sector are to thrive.

Concerns include major challenges around mental health, long working hours and rural isolation – as well as unpredictable weather, uncertain global markets and volatile commodity prices. Brexit will add to these pressures, says the study.

Challenges

Forum chairman Gordon Gatward said it was vital to ensure effective available support to farmers of all ages and across all sectors. “Our industry has enormous challenges to face up to over the next five years,” he said.

The health and well-being research report was commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Farmers. It was prepared by researchers from the University of Lincoln and rural economic consultants Rose Regeneration.

Two thirds of younger farmers report having good physical health. But they are most likely to say that their mental health is only about average, says the report. Health and well-being among farmers are also affected by social and cultural factors that affect, it adds.

Stoic attitudes may make it more likely for people living and working in rural communities to deny health problems, says the document. Close-knit rural communities mean people are sometimes reluctant to seek help, it says.

Even so, local and national support groups set up to help farming families are being called on more than ever before. At the same time, however, those groups are sometimes struggling with their increased workload.

Farming families

The report calls for a nationwide programme which takes a holistic approach to promote well-being among farming families and rural communities. Talking more openly about mental health and well-being is vital it suggests.

Some other countries have already adopted such an approach. New Zealand set up a national FarmStrong programme to promote better health and well-being. It encourages farmers to share health and well-being tips – while recognising the pressures involved in agriculture.

“A similar initiative in the UK would reduce the stigma of asking for help and encourage more farmers to access support sooner rather than later,” says WCF former master Philip Wynn, who initiated the forum.

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