“It is my privilege and pleasure to be invited to reflect on the role and success of FCN over the last 25 years. On FCN’s 20th Anniversary I was welcomed as your guest speaker and met more that 250 of the remarkable volunteers, many of whom I had the privilege of working with over the years.

“The organisation is particularly close to my heart. Partly in response to the high rate of suicides in the farming community in 1995, Christopher Jones and the original few volunteers – Stephen , Brian, Suzie Peter, Helen and Jill and others – established FCN to support farming communities and their families. One of those tragic deaths was in my family and even 25 years later the hurt and disbelief remain.

“Another landmark time was during the Foot & Mouth crisis in 2001. The devastation across the country was unbelievable – none more so than in my home county, Cumbria. Many of my neighbours and friends sought the help of the organisation in order to survive; whilst many others stepped out of their comfort zone to volunteer with FCN to assist and walk with them through the trauma.

“In the ongoing years there has been much change and many challenges in rural communities, with some farming families having to face difficult and heart breaking decisions. FCN’s volunteers were always there, walking beside them through the trials and tribulations.

“The organisation continued to grow, not only increasing the number of volunteers and County Groups, but also in how it could influence and educate others to better understand rural affairs and their impact on rural communities.

“Sarah and Charles both led from the front, helping the organisation to grow. I fully recognise and respect the vital role FCN plays in the rural community and how you support and inspire others to be their best.

“One of the main strengths of FCN which continues to grow is the ability to work with other organisations to help farming families. An example of how successful this collaboration can be is how, over many years, your volunteers have worked with the RPA – building a positive relationship  of trust, respect and support; and improving communications and working to deliver positive outcomes for the RPA, FCN and most importantly customers’ experience when facing difficulties.

“Over the years FCN has committed to ensure sustainability in all your operations: ensuring good practice; growing and developing your volunteers; and managing finances and lean operations with digital processes and technology.

“FCN has encouraged innovation, collaboration and reflection, leading to new ideas and improved methods of gathering information, evaluating this and using the data to drive improvements.

“The beating heart of the organisation is, as it was in the beginning, the willingness of FCN volunteers to take themselves out of their comfort zone to help others in their community. I wish everyone involved every good wish for the future – we know there are difficult times ahead, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for everything you do.”

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