“The sooner we recognise that we may need help and start talking, the better the outcomes” – Nick Viney, FCN volunteer and Lookout coordinator

The farming community in Dorset is set to benefit from a new initiative to encourage people to be ‘Lookouts’ in their local area, watching for signs that others may be experiencing difficulties and encouraging them to talk.

The ‘Dorset Lookouts’ group is made up of people who live and work in the agricultural industry and understand the challenges that farming faces over the coming years. 

National charity The Farming Community Network (FCN) is working with the group and providing training and support. FCN has a wide network of volunteers located throughout England and Wales, including a group of volunteers in Dorset.

Nick Viney, Dorset FCN volunteer and Lookout coordinator, said: “We know that early intervention is so important – the sooner we recognise that we may need help and start talking, the better the outcomes. There is still stigma in farming about mental health and people often adopt the ‘tough as old boots’ approach. But recognising we all need help at some point and that seeking support is a strength, not a weakness, is very important.”

Farmer Trevor Cligg from Pipplepen Farm in Dorset is part of the Lookouts initiative. He explained that whilst farming is a wonderful job, the industry is going through a period of change and that can be challenging, both from a business perspective and personally.

Trevor said: “There is a strong community spirit in farming and we need to look out for each other over the next few years as we adapt to a set of new rules and policies. Knowing the signs that someone might be finding things difficult and being able to start a conversation and connect that person with support will be really important.

“Depression and anxiety can happen to anyone and those experiencing poor mental health are often hiding in plain sight. Recognising the signs early before a person reaches crisis point is crucial.”

The group has a range of members of different ages and experiences, including people who are farming and some who work with businesses that provide agri-services, such as agronomists and vets.

The initiative is timely, launching during the winter months when there can be increased loneliness and isolation in farming and fewer social opportunities.

Charmain Dascombe, FCN’s Regional Support Officer in Dorset, explained how the charity will be working with the group: “This is very much a farming-led initiative. FCN will provide training to the group and ensure that Lookouts are closely aligned with our Helpline and local volunteers who can provide more specialist support if required. The Lookouts will form an important ‘first-responder’ role alongside FCN volunteers.”

Lookouts will be active at local events and shows in Dorset through 2023.

If you would like to become a Lookout in your local community, find out more about the role, or are concerned about someone, please call 03000 111 999 and mention Dorset Lookouts, or email and you will be connected through to the group.

More information about the Lookouts project is available via the FCN website here:

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