My name is James Hosking (better known as “Pasty” by friends). I’m 28 years old and live in Launceston, Cornwall and this is my story…
I grew up on our family dairy farm “Higher Leah Farm” in St Buryan, Land’s End, Cornwall. We used to milk around 120 cows and had a total of around 200 including beef and young stock cows. I started working on the farm when I was 12 years old.
I had to deal with a shock bereavement at the age of 15, when my Uncle Sandy died suddenly of aortic aneurysm in his mid-30s, 3 months after his first and only child was born. This was the first time I had to deal with loss and grief. I dealt with it by working almost constantly – this was my distraction. After all, life for the cows carried on as normal, they always needed milking. Farming never stops for anything. Less than 12 months after, my grandma, who was a huge driving force for the farm, died of cancer. I could sense the farm starting to struggle after this time. My reason to live started to crumble around me.
Little did I know that our family tragedies weren’t going to end here. When I was 17, we receved a phone call – my Auntie Fleur who was the widow of my Uncle Sandy and mother of my cousin Ross, had a nasty accident and sustained life-changing head injuries after falling down stairs. She was moved to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, which specialised in treatment for head traumas. My father and I rotated days working on the farm with travelling to Oxford to visit her.
I had to skip college regularly and worked long labouring days on the farm. The farm, which had already started struggling was becoming more of a problem as family life pressures were mounting whilst the dairy industry was in decline. Money was tight and we were not making enough profit to get us out of the rut we found ourselves in. We didn’t want to lose our home, so we had to make the extremely tough decision to downscale and sell up our dairy production. This was the only way we could ensure stability for our grieving family.
The next day I was up and about fairly early. I went outside and that’s when everything hit me. Everything was empty and silent. No cows mooing, no mixer wagon turning, no milking parlour in action – the sounds that once comforted me were gone.
As college came to a close, I tried to replace the feelings of emptiness by throwing myself into work again. This time as a bar and restaurant manager further up in Cornwall. I started spending more time socialising at Young Farmers Club. But I noticed people were avoiding me and I felt I was being constantly judged for being a “failed dairy farmer”. Even with friends and family standing by my side, my mood became so low I even contemplated taking my own life.
I thought moving further away from home would help, so I took a job in Aylesbury, but I soon realised trying to run away from my feelings and associations with depression didn’t work, and I took them everywhere I went. I returned home to my family. Not long after, I took part in an “#AgriChat” Twitter discussion on mental health where I shared my true feelings for the first time. This is when I realised I wasn’t alone. I had messages of support from all over the world. This marked a turning point.
Days went by and in 2013 my Auntie Fleur lost her battle with brain damage and passed away. I learned that bottling up my feelings would only feed my inner “demons”, so I talked. I started engaging in more mental health discussions and even publicly shared my story. I was truly overwhelmed with love and support and also had other people reach out to me for help themselves. My goal of getting just one person to open up and seek support filled me with drive, as I personally knew how much of a big step this was to make.
I started working in dairy farming again, back where my passion lies – milking cows. It was never quite the same milking someone else’s cows, but it was a glimmer of hope. I also ran my own DJ Business “DJ Pasty Co Industries” alongside which has become successful, especially in the Young Farmers community. In September 2019 I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I realised I had to put my physical health first and ultimately made another difficult decision to move away from farming. Now I’m still here. I’m 28 years old, working as a Dairy Sales Specialist for B. H. White and Son. I love my job and I have a wonderful life with my fiancée here in Launceston. We are due to get married next year.
It has been a rough road until now, having to make sacrifices for both my physical and emotional wellbeing, but being able to talk about mental health has kept me away from the dark patches and I can focus on the positive parts of life.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Farming Help free on 03000 111999 or visit www.farminghelp.co.uk to learn more.
If you are in Scotland please contact RSABI free on 0300 111 4166 or visit www.rsabi.org.uk to learn more.