Regional farmers are renowned for being independent and self-reliant. This mentality has been one of the industry’s greatest strengths, but paradoxically, may also be its biggest weakness. Today we speak to Richard Betton, the Farming Community Network (FCN) Northern Regional Director who tells us a story that many of you will relate to and discover how, when things seem at their very worst, there is always a helping hand… all you have to do is ask for it
This was illustrated perfectly in an email I recently received from a farmer who has recently been supported by the Farming Community Network (FCN). It reads as follows:
“Life as a farmer is hard work. I think this statement is so often misunderstood. People immediately think of the physical hard work that farm duties entail, and no-one can deny it is hard work. But the general public doesn’t see the other aspects farm life encompasses: The isolation from the outside world. Living in a rural area, you can go days without even talking to another person. The stack of feed, seed, vet or machinery bills that stack higher and higher each year as the value of our products are undercut or undersold. The way you will ignore that cough or bad hip because you put the welfare of your livestock first, or can’t find the time to drop to your local GP because the workload is that high.
Farming in these times is beyond a challenge. It’s like pushing an elephant upstairs, except the steps keep getting steeper, and the load gets heavier.
“Recently, my own personal struggle has been difficult to say the least: Trying to keep a family business afloat by working a second full-time job just to put food on the table. An elderly father who, despite his determination, is facing the physical challenges associated with getting older. And a mother who has given up on the demands of farming due to the long list of mental health issues brought on by chronic stress, a result of a series of a bad farming year. Farming tries us all, but you take the good with the bad.
“Most recently our family was waiting for the much needed BPS payment. A subsidy that, for a smallholding, is the difference between selling up and carrying on. This Christmas, ours didn’t arrive. After calling the RPA, it was not looking good for us. I then called the Farming Community Network and I have to say, what an amazing enterprise. Everyone I spoke to was understanding, sensitive to the issue, and 100% professional and helpful. In just one week the dedicated team of volunteers had not only ensured we will receive our 2018 BPS payment, but equally as important, the kindness of the volunteers just being there to talk to was by far, the most impressive lifeline.
“Times are hard but are getting better thanks to people like you.”
Receiving this email filled me with pleasure. Not only was it heart-warming to learn that this farming family were on a more positive path, but it was encouraging to know that there were members of the farming community recognising that they sometimes need a helping hand.
As an industry, we need to turn our preconceived assumptions around: it is actually a strength, not a weakness, to be able to recognise when you need help.
That help does not need to be tangible or financial. Often just a sympathetic, listening ear can be far more effective – and that is exactly what you get with FCN. Our national helpline is run by volunteers who are ready to listen and offer understanding to those who need support, without judgement or prejudice.
If you can relate to this farmer, please call the FCN helpline on 03000 111999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The helpline is open every day of the year from 7am-11pm.