In this Q&A, FCN Surrey and Sussex volunteer Emily Davies shares a little about herself, discusses her background in farming and what motivated her to volunteer with FCN.
Could you share a bit about yourself and the things you’re passionate about?
I live in Surrey, although I’m originally from the Midlands. I’m self employed; working in Marketing and PR for agricultural businesses.
I love running; I live in a beautiful part of the world so there’s nothing better than throwing my trainers on and heading out to explore and, although I’m away too much to have a dog of my own, I love looking after my brother’s dog Minnie who enjoys exploring with me on long dog walks – the Titsey Estate is one of our favourites!
I exercise because I know when my body is in a better state, my mind is too. I really believe that the key to achieving a greater state of mental health comes down to an improved understanding of the mind / body connection, so I spend a lot of time reading books about psychology and the human body, and I enjoy re-telling my discoveries to anyone that asks.
I also love singing, and look forward to my singing lesson every week – it’s an hour of complete joy, and I’m always shocked and pleasantly surprised each week when I learn something new from my teacher. I love learning – it’s the key to understanding (and the answer to world peace in my opinion) but that’s probably a conversation for another day!
What are you currently working on?
At the moment my time is split between a non-profit organisation called Just Farmers: building confidence and communication skills among farmers through media education, and helping members of the media find independent farmers to talk to; and an agri-tech company called Breedr, the precision livestock network, which helps farmers produce and market more profitable cattle with higher welfare and less waste.
I’m also a fully trained Yoga Teacher (although not currently teaching) and a British School of Coaching Well-Being Coach.
What is your background in farming?
My family on my father’s side have been farming for many years, in fact I’m the youngest of generation four; my dad (who is now retired) was an arable farmer and my uncle (also retired) a dairy farmer.
Anyone who grew up on a farm will know that it’s in the blood. I once heard someone say that it’s an “inherited privilege” and they are absolutely right. I feel so very lucky to have had that childhood and it’s difficult to express that emotion in words. The farm was a place to explore and learn; whether I was on the tractor with dad, visiting the baby calves, helping dad in the workshop or exploring our bluebell wood with school friends, there was always something to do.
I’ve always kept that connection to farming through my work, and after graduating university I became a journalist, and whether I was on the planning desk or the news desk at ITV Central News I always made sure I had a farming story in there somewhere! And this has led me to the work I’m doing today, which I believe can really help make a positive change for farmers and the sometimes ‘urban biased’ public perception of them.
What motivated you to volunteer with FCN and why is it important to you?
In 2010 my family discovered some devastating news – that our family farm was on the line for HS2 (the High Speed Rail Route from London to Birmingham) – which meant our farm would be compulsory purchased and taken from us by the Government.
I can’t even put into words the emotional upset that this caused my family, but it led to ten years of stress, trauma, upset and depression. Things came to a head in 2020, when coupled with lockdown, and after repeated requests from my parents to get a meeting in place with someone they needed to speak to at HS2, my mom was in a very, very bad state with her depression. It was only when they went to FCN, and FCN stepped in on their behalf, that they were able to put a meeting in place and finally sign the papers – allowing them to move on, and try and rebuild a new life by finding a new home.
My farm was in my family for 108 years – that’s 108 years of blood, sweat and tears, history, heritage, births, marriages and deaths. For me, losing our farm has brought the same amount of grief as it has when you lose a loved one… and I too have suffered from depression because of our loss.
So in May 2021 I signed up to volunteer with FCN because I wanted to give something back after they helped my family, because I wanted to use my experience to be part of the solution – in helping other farmers that may have to go through the same thing, and also because I felt that volunteering could be a part of my own healing process too.
Could you explain one way in which you hope to make a positive impact in farming?
That’s a big question! I suppose, one way (whether it’s farming or not) that I want to make a positive impact just in the world in general is through better communication.
I generally believe that all of life’s biggest problems come from a lack of communication which leads to a lack of understanding and that’s what leads to conflict…. if we could all spend a day in someone else’s shoes, imagine how much more understanding we would all be – imagine how much better the world would be!
Compassionate communication is such a small and simple concept – and one that can have a huge impact on the world as we know it – but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
So I suppose, whether I am talking to farmers on the phone or face to face, hosting media education workshops, communicating to them through social media channels, or talking to them as a volunteer for FCN (!) I want to always ensure I’m practicing compassionate communication and actively listening to their story.
And in return, hopefully I can help them communicate their story, their frustrations, worries or stresses in a way that provides more understanding overall.
Find out more about volunteering with FCN: https://fcn.org.uk/volunteering-for-fcn/
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