Why we are building a support network

Lizzie Wilson is the NPA’s policy services officer. For more information visit: www.npa-uk.org.uk

At our last Allied Industry Group meeting, the chief executive for rural support in Northern Ireland, Jude McCann, presented his Nuffield report, which looked at ‘Protecting the Farm’s Greatest Asset’.

Family farms across the UK are experiencing serious pressures. The pig sector, in particular, is subject to financial concerns, increasing regulation, disease risks and animal rights activity. This combined with Brexit uncertainty is impacting farming businesses and affecting many farmers’ health and well-being. Jude’s project aimed to identify ways of increasing resilience and effective knowledge exchange so farmers can protect themselves and their businesses through challenging times.

He travelled worldwide to speak to farmers who are supporting others, having experienced dark times themselves. Farmers like Doug Avery, author of The Resilient Farmer, who talks about ‘looking after the top paddock’, encouraging farmers to do the same with their mental health.

Pig producers and stock people will all be quick to call the vet to a sick pig, but how often do you do the same for yourself? As the NPA has seen a few times; if the welfare of the animals is poor, it generally indicates the welfare of the person looking after them is poor, also.

Jude emphasised the importance of farm/life balance and making sure you get away from the farm on a regular basis, even if it’s just to go for a coffee or attend a discussion group. Farming can be very isolating and all-consuming, so everyone needs a break..

Perhaps you may be OK, but you’re worried about someone else. Has someone you know stopped taking calls or stopped coming to meetings? They could be going through a tough time and may just need someone to talk to.

Jude reminded everyone that the whole industry is facing pressures. It is not one single person standing alone and farming, and our industry especially, can be thought of as a ‘village’ or ‘tribe’ who always looks after their own.

There is lots of support out there, including the Farming Community Network (see page 24) and the very embryonic AIG Support Network, whereby NPA is formalising the network of support already provided by the allied sector.

If you’re interested in volunteering, please contact me directly at: [email protected]


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