UK agriculture will face a range of challenges in the years to come with Britain preparing to leave the European Union. It doesn’t matter what your political persuasion is; it is clear that leaving the EU will present British farming with great opportunities and great risks in equal measure.
At this stage, it is unclear what road lies ahead for British farming. The only thing that is certain is that farming in the UK is going to change – and whenever there is change, there is anxiety.
Even without the uncertainty of Brexit, farming life is far from easy, as highlighted in the recent Fit2Farm campaign survey results. It is a fantastic industry to work in, but it is also inherently risky and volatile. Farmers are regularly forced to deal with issues on the farm that are beyond their control, such as animal disease, fluctuating market prices and the weather. Farming can also be a very isolating and lonely occupation, with farmers often spending long hours out in the field with little or no form of social interaction.
On top of their responsibilities on the farm, farmers also deal with issues in their personal life, such as relationship breakdowns, physical health problems and bereavement.
All of this means that farmers and farming families across the UK are highly susceptible to poor mental wellbeing, including stress, anxiety and depression. The sad reality is that more than one farmer a week dies by suicide in the UK.
The Farming Community Network (FCN) is a charity that supports members of the farming community through difficult times. Over 400 FCN volunteers are based throughout England and Wales, providing practical and pastoral support to anyone who seeks it. Whether the issue is personal or business-related, FCN’s volunteers are there to help for as long as it takes, “walking with” people and helping them find a positive outcome to their situation.
FCN has been doing this now for 23 years, with approximately 6,000 people a year benefitting from the support our volunteers provide. But the way in which we support the farming community in the future is highly dependable on the outcome of Brexit.
FCN’s main focus when it comes to Brexit is the human impact it might have and the future welfare of farmers and rural communities. We are not a lobbying organisation and we do not seek to propose policy options. However, we are keen observers of the impact which Government policies have on British farmers. Our helpline regularly receives calls from farmers and farming families concerned about the impact of Brexit on their farm business.
We are in regular dialogue with industry leaders and government agencies, most of whom value our work and acknowledge the extremely important role that support services like FCN will play, post-Brexit. We are urging them to think, very carefully, about the potential human implications of their decisions. We are also working closely with the farmers themselves to ensure that they are well-informed, encouraging them to be resilient and to embrace the changes that lie ahead.
As British farming prepares for change, so will FCN. We are preparing for what we anticipate will be a significant increase in the workload of our 400+ volunteers throughout England and Wales over the next few years.
One of our biggest priorities will be to recruit more volunteers. We encourage anyone who is passionate about supporting the farming community to join as a volunteer, and there are numerous volunteering roles available, including taking helpline calls, handling casework, fundraising and publicity.
We also welcome anyone who is able to support FCN financially. As an organisation, we rely solely on donations to continue supporting the farming community. It costs approximately £1,500 a day to run FCN; our national helpline alone costs approximately £20 an hour to run.
There are also many ways that you can raise money for FCN, including organising an event, running, corporate sponsorship, leaving a legacy in your will, or simply donating through our website.
More information about the work of FCN, and how you can support us, is available at www.fcn.org.uk.
If you need someone to talk to, FCN is here for you, no matter what your concern is. Our free and confidential helpline is open from 7am-11pm every day of the year. Call 03000 111999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.