Farming is not just a job - it's a way of life. But it is also an inherently risky and volatile industry to work in. 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, farm workers also deal with issues in their personal life, such as relationship breakdowns, physical health problems and bereavement.
Furthermore, as Britain prepares to leave the European Union, many farmers face great uncertainty about the future of their farm business.
All of this means that farmers and farming families across the UK are highly susceptible to poor mental wellbeing, including stress, anxiety and depression - and sadly, approximately one farmer a week dies by suicide in the UK.
Simply talking about your problems is often the first step towards improved mental wellbeing. But because of the stigma surrounding mental health, many within the farming community have difficulty coming forward and admitting that they need help. Farmers generally also don’t discuss their issues with a friend or relative as they don't wish to become a burden. More often than not, they prefer to discuss their issues in confidence with someone who they have no emotional attachment to and who will treat their situation without judgment - this is where FCN can help.
To be the first port of call for pastoral and practical support of all those in need in the farming community, with a particular focus on farmers and farming families.
We have a network of over 400 volunteers across England and Wales, many of whom are involved in farming, or have close links with agriculture, and therefore have a great understanding of the issues that farmers, farm workers and farming families regularly face. Our volunteers provide free, confidential, pastoral and practical support to anyone who seeks help, regardless of whether the issue is personal or business-related.
In addition to local groups of volunteers, FCN runs a confidential national helpline and e-helpline which is open every day of the year from 7am-11pm.
Our volunteers will "walk with" anyone who seeks support and help them find a positive way through their problems - for as long as it is needed.
We have helped thousands of people deal with a variety of issues, including financial difficulties, animal disease, mental health and family disputes.
The 1980s and 1990s saw a steep decline in the fortunes of farmers, brought on by low commodity prices. This also resulted in a sharp rise in the number of suicides amongst farmers.
As a result of this, FCN was founded in 1995 by Christopher Jones MBE, who is now our Honorary President. It was set up as a joint venture between the Agricultural Christian Fellowship (ACF) and Germinate: The Arthur Rank Centre. It was founded under the name The Farm Crisis Network, but changed its name in 2013 to The Farming Community Network.
FCN volunteers provide support in a number of ways. These can include support with paperwork, building relationships with bank managers, acting as family mediators and even supporting farmers through legal issues.
More often than not, farm workers just need someone who will listen to them. FCN volunteers are on hand to provide a sympathetic ear, which is why our confidential helpline is such an important asset to those who seek our help.
Approximately 40 volunteers help with the running of the FCN helpline. Cases that come through the FCN helpline are usually referred to a local FCN volunteer, who will try and organise a face-to-face meeting with the person seeking help. It is entirely up to them how much support they need or want from FCN.
Our volunteers travel approximately 130,000 miles every year in support of the farming community.
We work with a variety of stakeholders critical to the successful outcome of cases. These include government bodies, agricultural organisations and healthcare services. Our volunteers provide support, facilitation and direct links to sympathetic professionals.
FCN is part of the Farming Help group of national farm charities. Working together with RABI, RSABI and The Addington Fund in the farming community; we provide a wide range of complementary support. FCN also works with and alongside many other organisations in order to provide the best available help in each individual situation. This includes professional advice and support where appropriate. Click here to visit the Farming Help website.