From a pig farming family, RABI’s regional manager for the North, Sally Connor offers a personal and professional perspective on the current pressures facing the sector
For the past 15 years, I have worked for one of the UK’s leading farming charities, RABI. It’s a role I’m enormously proud of, as I believe we make a real difference through our network of local branches and the wider team.
Recently, I was in Birmingham for the launch of The Big Farming Survey. It has been a huge project that will shape the future of support for people in agriculture. The research, commissioned by RABI, could not have come at a more appropriate time, as the current crisis started to escalate.
The report flagged the pig sector as of particular concern, with the highest levels of depression across agriculture.
In fact, if 47% of the pig farmers who completed the survey between January and March were probably or possibly depressed, then that figure is undoubtedly much higher now. The key thing to remember is you are not alone, and I stand by the saying that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.
My family has first-hand experience of the volatility of the industry, so I understand the issues many of you currently face. My husband, Mark, lost everything when our pig business collapsed 30 years ago.
At the time there wasn’t the awareness of mental wellbeing or access to support there is today. We fended for ourselves, but I know that the challenges we faced, both emotionally and financially, have had a lasting impact on us both.
Thankfully, we survived, and Mark remains in the pig industry contract fattening pigs. But this is one of the reasons why I’m such a passionate advocate for RABI and the services we provide.
Ultimately, all farming people anticipate fluctuations and the pig market can be particularly unstable – it’s part and parcel of being a farmer. Yet, today’s situation is unprecedented. The levels of uncertainty are truly alarming, and I frequently hear Mark talking on the phone to other pig producers about their concerns for the future. It is not a time for complacency or inaction.
I have been monitoring the situation closely and RABI has been quick to respond, announcing the immediate availability of additional support to those affected. The charity has for generations provided a package of practical and financial support, which is being supplemented with access to in-person professional counselling support.
I urge anyone impacted by the pig farming crisis to contact us via the new round-the-clock helpline. Speaking to a qualified professional who understands the impact of this level of trauma is a hugely valuable step.
Thankfully, the world is changing and so are farmer attitudes. During this difficult time so many of my county committee volunteers have asked how I’m coping. It’s OK to reach out to others – in fact, it’s essential if we’re to get through this.
Please find the courage and speak to someone about your concerns, there are lots of charities and support organisations out there in the community.
Rely on your existing support network or call our confidential 24-hour helpline, 0800 188 4444.