“Support and empathy are powerful healers” – Q&A with the team at the frontline of FCN’s helpline

FCN’s Helpline (03000 111 999) is open 7am to 11pm, 365 days of the year. Calls to the Helpline are confidential and non-judgemental. Our Helpline is operated by an experienced team of volunteers and staff members who understand farming life and its unique challenges and pressures. They’re here to listen and support you, and help you to consider options to find a positive way forward through any problems you may be facing.

In this Q&A we hear from five of the individuals who operate our Helpline and support the farming community.


Jo (volunteer)

How long have you worked on the FCN Helpline?

I have been volunteering with FCN for eighteen months.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

My husband and I with our two children and two part-time staff run a 300 cow dairy farm just south of Guildford in Surrey. In my spare time I love swimming and walking our three spaniels.

Why is the FCN Helpline important to you?

It’s important to me, as I feel I can relate, add understanding and sympathise with those coping with the stresses and strains in dairy farming, and those farming with parents / in-laws and children.

What would your message be to anyone experiencing a difficult time?

My message to those who are struggling would be to talk – go along to local FCN meetings or farmer discussion groups; there will always be someone else having similar issues and you won’t feel alone.

Why should someone consider volunteering with FCN?

People should consider volunteering with FCN to meet and support like-minded farmers / people. New friends are easily made, and I like the feeling I am giving something back.


Kathryn (volunteer)

How long have you been an FCN volunteer?

I first began volunteering nearly five years ago – initially offering to provide local support, but quickly became interested in the Helpline and did my first shift that Christmas.

Tell us a little about yourself

I was born into a farming family and other than six years away at weekly boarding school, I have lived and worked part/full-time on a farm. On leaving school I worked as an accounts clerk for five years until leaving to have and raise three children. I married into a neighbouring family farm, working on the farm and doing the paperwork, and provided childcare as and when required for my eight grandchildren. I decided to volunteer with FCN when the youngest went off to school.

Why is the FCN Helpline important to you?

Having experienced personally and been aware of a lot of issues that cause stress to members of the farming community, I hoped to be able to use that knowledge to at the very least make ‘one person feel a little better about themselves’. I feel it is a great privilege when someone trusts you enough to share their problems.

What would your message be to anyone experiencing difficulties?

That they do have value and worth, and others do care. ‘There is light at the end of the tunnel, even when at times it is difficult to see it’.  ‘A trouble shared is halved’, and that someone else’s support and empathy is a very powerful healer.  


Maureen (Volunteer)

How long have you been an FCN volunteer?

I have volunteered for the Helpline for nine years. There was a call put out for more helpline volunteers and this was something I could do from home.

Tell us a little about yourself

I am a farmer’s daughter and married a farmer, so I have been involved in the industry all my life and dealt with the ups and downs of the industry as all farmers do. I run the administrative and financial part of the business but have milked, fed calves and been a general ‘gofer’. I am a full partner in the business, with my husband and son and am always in business meetings etc. I am also heavily involved with the Royal Bath and West Show, being Chief Livestock Steward, and also with The Dairy Show.

Why is the FCN Helpline important to you?

I got involved with the Helpline because I wanted to give something back to the industry and with my length of time involved with farming felt that this was a way to do that.

What would your message be to anyone experiencing difficulties?

To people experiencing a difficult time, with help you will get through, whether that is talking to family and friends or FCN. People who understand.

Why should people consider volunteering with FCN?

If you have had farming experience and you are passionate about the industry this is one way you can make a difference. It may not be headline-making but being there for someone who maybe needs a bit of information or longer-term help and you have the time, it can be upsetting but also can be very rewarding.


Susie (volunteer)

How long have you been an FCN volunteer?

I have volunteered with FCN for three years.

Tell us a little about yourself

I am married to a farmer and live on a farm which has changed hugely in the forty-five years I have been here.  I also worked with the Citizens Advice Bureau for eighteen years.

Why is the FCN Helpline important to you?

I am more and more aware of how solitary a farmer/farm worker’s life is nowadays. Loneliness and mental health seem to be a growing issue in society generally. I have always felt strongly that human beings need other human beings and therefore organisations like FCN have an important part to play in society. Sometimes it is easier to talk to a stranger than your nearest and dearest.

What would your message be to anyone experiencing difficulties?

If you are experiencing a difficult time, you are not alone. Many, many people have been in the same boat.

Why should people consider volunteering with FCN?

Volunteering for FCN feels worthwhile if sharing issues with each other strengthens us all when life becomes difficult. 


Mark (staff member)

How long have you worked on the FCN Helpline?

I have been involved with the FCN Helpline for over five years as a staff member. My primary role is to support our volunteers, respond to Helpline calls and maintain anonymised information about the calls we take to help improve our service and training.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Before joining FCN, I worked in the agronomy sector for over thirty years. I am passionate about the community aspect of agriculture and believe that a healthy farm business starts with a healthy team.

I believe that our industry benefits from diversity of thought and that requires diversity of people – I am keen to encourage people of all backgrounds to consider a career in farming.

Why is the FCN Helpline important to you?

We all need a bit of help at times, especially when daily pressures build up and the ‘fog’ of stress can affect our mood and thinking. The Helpline is there to relieve that stress by encouraging people to share their concerns and in so doing we help callers to a calmer place and consider their options. I think it helps that our Helpline team are farming people – we understand the highs and lows and we ‘talk the language’.

What would your message be to anyone who is experiencing a difficult time?

It can be difficult to open up, but I am struck by how many of our callers feel better by the end of the conversation, just through downloading what is on their mind and relieving the pressure of the moment. My plea would be for people not to feel embarrassed and to give the helpline a try. We don’t judge and we treat calls in confidence. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving us a call.


Volunteering with FCN is rewarding and really does make a huge difference. If you would like to learn more about volunteering with FCN, and the many volunteering roles available, please visit our volunteering page

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