Farmers’ wellbeing amid ‘unimaginable change’

John Scott, farmer and chair of the steering committee

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Farming in a rapidly-changing world is putting pressure on the health and wellbeing of our farmers.

Amid growing concern as pressures build in the industry, agricultural partners have launched a joint survey to better understand the needs and worries of Scotland’s farmers and crofters ahead of a planned new wellbeing programme for 2022/23.

The research follows the successful ‘drought, adversity and breaking new ground’ tour  in the winter of 2018 which saw more than 2,000 farmers attend one of 14 events to hear New Zealand farmer Doug Avery talk about his own challenges with mental health and wellbeing.

A steering group was established to review the learnings, chaired by beef, sheep and arable farmer John Scott of Fearn Farm, Ross-Shire.

‘Agriculture is facing unimaginable change that will impact generations and could require complete restructuring of farming practices. Many of these challenges we can’t control; they will happen regardless of how well we rear our livestock, grow our crops or manage our finances. This significantly impacts the way we think and farm. It tests our resilience and can, at times, take us down a dark path when we feel overwhelmed, anxious or simply just knackered,’ said Mr Scott.

‘When Doug visited Scotland we were astounded by the response, highlighting the appetite from farmers and crofters to better understand how we can manage our own wellbeing through shared learning, events and resources.

‘This new survey will give us insights to understand how farmers and crofters are feeling, what type of activities and resources would best support them and how they should be delivered.’

The survey, supported by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), the National Mental Health Forum, run by Support in Mind Scotland, the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland and the Scottish Rural Network (Scottish Government), aims to provide insights to emulate Farmstrong, a successful wellbeing programme in New Zealand that helps farmers to ‘live well to farm well’.

The initiative is designed to provide proven tools to allow farmers manage their own wellbeing when faced with challenges that are often hard to predict or control, from fluctuating commodity prices and the weather, to changing government legislation and market pressures.

Kate Lamont from SRUC said: ‘The survey has been designed by farmers, for farmers.  You can answer on your phone, tablet, computer or you can get a paper copy. It would be really good to hear how you cope and what you think would help others.’

John Scott added: ‘Our hope is to launch the Farmstrong model here in Scotland in 2022/23, developed for farmers by farmers. This research will be integral in ensuring we get it right and offer something that has huge benefits to everyone involved, while also supporting and partnering with existing organisations and charities.’

To take part in the survey, farmers and crofters should visit www.dougaveryscotland.co.uk before the end of May.

PIC:

John Scott, farmer and chairman of the steering committee. no_a14JohnScott01