All posts by Melissa Wylie

Announcement: Rural Support seeks Farm Business Mentors

To assist in the delivery of its aims and objectives through a number of programmes and other emerging projects, Rural Support wishes to expand its register of associates (Farm Business Mentors) who have the necessary agri-business expertise to provide guidance and support to clients wishing to make changes to their farm business or who are experiencing financial pressures which are impacting their mental well-being so as to promote positive mental health.


Essential key skills, knowledge and experience- Rural Support Farm Business Mentor

  • Strong agricultural advisory/consulting experience, with a minimum of five years relevant experience
  • Financial/ farm business management experience and an understanding of financial management, in a farm business context
  • Knowledge of rural stress issues and the impacts of stress
  • Able to demonstrate empathy for farming and rural communities
  • Willingness to promote positive mental health and wellbeing among target groups
  • Able to demonstrate empathy and understanding of mental health issues
  • An excellent understanding of the current technical, economic, and social issues facing farming families
  • Experience of one to one or group mentoring
  • Excellent interpersonal and group communication skills
  • A high level of written and verbal communication, including experience of using IT packages such as MS Office, internet and e-mail. – Applicants must have access to a computer
  • Ability to market and promote the programme to potential applicants
  • Confidentiality in handling personal and sensitive information
  • Flexibility in terms of working hours and emerging needs of clients



  • A 3rd level qualification in Agriculture, Finance or a related subject
  • Debt Management experience
  • Experience in the provision of technical farm business management support including regulatory requirements
  • Received or willingness to undertake training in the area of mental health such as, Mental Health First Aid, ASIST
  • Knowledge/ understanding of animal welfare, bovine T.B.
  • Experience in group facilitation/ chairing meetings

The closing date for receipt of applications is 5pm on Friday 17th August 2018. ***Update- this deadline has been extended to 5pm on Friday 24th August 2018***

For further details and an application form please email or telephone 028 8676 0040.

Former UFU President Endorses Rural Support

Former President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, Barclay Bell has given his backing to the Rural Support Helpline, which has recently changed its number to a Freephone service.


The UFU has had a long-standing relationship with Rural Support since the charity’s establishment in 2002.  The UFU President explains that the Rural Support services, particularly the Helpline support, is needed now, more than ever:


“Rural Support provides us within the farming community, with an invaluable service.  They have a team of trained and dedicated volunteers who listen to and assist farmers and farming families with a range of issues such as financial pressures, physical and mental health concerns and succession planning issues” said Mr. Bell.


“These last few months have been very difficult for farmers with the prolonged wet weather, issues with fodder supplies and the pressure on farmers to feed their livestock. Rural Support is available to provide technical and emotional guidance and support.  The gateway to access all of Rural Support’s services is through their Helpline, which has recently changed its number to 0800 138 1678.  This number is a Freephone number which makes it much more accessible to everybody within the farming community.  I would encourage anyone who feels they are struggling or needs assistance to contact the Rural Support Helpline or visit or on Twitter and Facebook @RuralSupport,” says the former UFU president.


Rural Support Chief Executive, Jude McCann commented, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the UFU President for all of his support during his two years in office.  Barclay has been a tremendous ambassador for the farming community during his term as UFU President and has been extremely supportive of our work here in Rural Support.  I wish him continued success in his future endeavours.”


To speak to someone in confidence, contact the Rural Support Helpline on 0800 138 1678.  Calls are free from all UK landlines and mobile numbers.  The Helpline is available 9am – 9pm, Monday – Friday (Voicemail and Support options available at all other times) or visit

Job Announcement – Finance and Development Officer

Rural Support is seeking to recruit a Finance and Development Officer.


Job Overview


  • To be responsible for the Finance, HR and Admin function of the operation


  • To manage the day to day Financial requirements of Rural Support


  • To oversee the claims to funders and ensure appropriate financial record keeping


  • To assist in the development of additional activities relating to Rural Support core services and initiatives across Northern Ireland


  • Develop strong working relationships with key stakeholders to create new opportunities for people availing of Rural Support services


  • Forge Rural Support’s reputation as a trusted partner that delivers real benefits to rural dwellers, farmers and farming families




Rural Support office, Cookstown


37.5  hours (5days) per week

Salary scale:

Senior Officer 1 £26,470

This position is available for 11 months initially with possible extension funding dependent.


Applicants must have a relevant third level qualification and at least five years successful experience in a Finance role.


For an application form, job description and specification please email Deborah at Rural Support.


Closing date for applications is 10am on Tuesday 1st of May 2018.

HSENI backs Rural Support with New Helpline Number

HSENI Chief Executive, Keith Morrison recently attended the Social Farming celebration event ‘Growth and Next Steps’ in Loughry College, Cookstown and had this to say about Rural Support and their new Freephone Helpline:


“ Rural Support delivers a vital service to the farming community by providing help, advice and support to those in the community who are facing significant challenges. The Freephone number is a particularly important way for those in farming to seek help especially when they are facing major difficulties.


HSENI fully supports the extremely important work undertaken by Rural Support and has assisted in relation to delivering health and safety training to farmers who support social farming, which is an innovative use of agriculture to promote therapy, rehabilitation, social inclusion, education and social services in rural areas.


To be able to speak to someone who understands the problems that the farming community is facing and to hear the voice of a reassuring person who can provide clear guidance cannot be underestimated, especially when members of the farming industry are concerned about many issues including mental health, financial problems and worries about succession planning.  The new Freephone Helpline will make these services much more accessible to everybody within the farming community”

Rural Support Issues Business Spring Clean Call

In time for the arrival of the Spring season, local charity, Rural Support has issued a call to the farming community, encouraging them to undertake a Spring clean of a special kind.

Rural Support Chief Executive, Jude McCann has said that now is the perfect time to Spring clean your farming business finances. He said: “Spring is usually a great time of year for the agricultural community, with sunnier days and new life on the farm, but that shouldn’t distract farm businesses from keeping their financials in order.

“A proper Spring clean at the farm should also include a review of your finances, particularly as we prepare for the new financial year ahead. After what has been an extremely wet and difficult Winter, many farmers have experienced increased stress due to losing crops, damage to farmland, missed production deadlines and a shortage in fodder which has led to detrimental impacts on the farm finances.

“Mending this might seem like a daunting task, but Rural Support is here to help. For those who need some additional support with issues such as cash flow or debt, our Farm Business Mentors can offer specialist, impartial advice on how to get your business back on the right track. Their support will ease the burden and help identify a way forward.”

Rural Support has a team of 11 farm business mentors, all of which have extensive experience in agribusiness and finance. They have a diverse range of skills that can help farmers give their finances a ‘spring clean’ and help address financial issues regarding the farm business.

The charity which supports farmers and farming families right across Northern Ireland has undergone a Spring clean of its own – launching a brand new helpline number for those who need guidance or a helping hand.

Jude added: “We understand that it can be difficult to talk to family members or friends about financial, health or any other sensitive issues. Using our new helpline number is the first step in addressing these issues. I urge anyone who thinks they may benefit from the support of one of our volunteers or Farm Business Mentors to get in touch.”

The Rural Support helpline provides a listening and signposting service for farmers and rural families. A dedicated team of staff and volunteers deal with a range of issues including farm financial pressures, physical and mental health concerns, farming paperwork and bureaucracy.

The freephone helpline number is 0800 138 1678. Helpline Operating Hours are 9am – 9pm, Monday to Friday (Voicemail and Support options available at all other times)

Celebrating the growth of Social Farming in Northern Ireland

A celebration event was held on Wednesday 21st March to mark the growth of Social Farming in Northern Ireland. Farmers and participants of Social Farming were joined by representatives from the farming and health and social care sectors as invited guests to this special occasion.

The event was organised by the Social Farming Support Service for Northern Ireland, which is operated by the charity Rural Support on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). In his welcome, Jude McCann Chief Executive of Rural Support said “I am delighted to host this conference on Social Farming in Northern Ireland: Growth & Next Steps. It is great to have representatives from a wide range of sectors to inform our approach to Social Farming in the coming years”.
Social Farming is an innovative use of agriculture to promote therapy, rehabilitation, social inclusion, education and social services in rural areas. It has been shown to benefit those living with a Learning Disability or recovering from a Mental Health issue through participation in the day-to-day activities of a working farm.

Speakers at the event in Loughry College, Cookstown included Catherine McCallum, Director of Rural Affairs within DAERA and Iolo Eilian, Social Care Commissioning Lead within the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB). Both DAERA and the HSCB along with the Public Health Agency (PHA) have taken a cross departmental, partnership approach to supporting the development of Social Farming. This has led to a Social Farming Referral Fund being created which is currently increasing the provision of Social Farming on a regional basis.

Catherine McCallum, Director of DAERA’s Rural Affairs Division said, “Social Farming can have a hugely positive impact on farmers and their families, as well as making a real difference in the lives of those who spend time on the farms. A lot has been achieved since the early research and social farming now has a solid foundation in Northern Ireland. I am confident that it will continue to grow and develop in the years ahead.”

The benefits of Social Farming were best described by two individuals who have participated on Butterlope Farm in Plumbridge. Engaging in meaningful activities and learning new skills has improved their lives and opened up new opportunities for future. The farmers from Butterlope Farm and Gortilea Social Farm in Claudy also spoke about how they and their farms have been positively impacted by providing a Social Farming service. Certificates of achievement were presented to five Social Farming participants by Iolo Eilian from the Health and Social Care Board in a highlight of the event. In his comments Iolo said, “Social Farming adds to the current range of Day Services available to individuals receiving support from a Learning Disability or Mental Health service and promotes greater involvement in community life, allowing them to expand their social contacts and improve their health and wellbeing.”

Social Farming is about people. The farmers delivering a Social Farming service are committed to using their farm and their skills to improve lives. The participants making the choice to engage are being supported in rural communities to learn, to connect, and to achieve their potential. The progress made to date provides a strong foundation for further growth.

If you would like further information on Social Farming, whether you are a farmer, staff member, service user or family member/supporter of a service user, you can contact the Social Farming Support Service for further information on 028 86760040.

Last Chance to attend Business Planning Seminars

A number of Business Planning seminars focusing on areas impacting on farm businesses have been organised and delivered by CAFRE in partnership with Rural Support throughout Northern Ireland over the past months with excellent attendance and feedback to date. The seminars are part of the Farm Family Key Skills (FFKS) initiative which and is a key element of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.
The seminars are delivered by industry professionals from local Accountancy and Law firms and provide farmers with important information on succession planning and business resilience and risk management including financial budgeting, forecasting and the impact of market volatility on farm profitability.
The dates and venues for the final group of evening seminars are now confirmed as Friel’s Restaurant, Swatragh on Thursday 22nd February, City Hotel, Armagh on Tuesday 27th February, the Old School House, Cushendall on Wednesday 28th February and Tirgan Community Association, Tirgan Hall, Moneymore on Monday 5th of March. Doors open for these seminars at 7.30pm with seminars beginning at 8.00pm.
One additional afternoon session has also been confirmed at Greenmount Campus, Antrim on Tuesday 13th of March with doors opening at 1.00 pm and seminars beginning at 1.30pm.
The seminars are free to farmers, members of the farm family and employees. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters within farm families would all benefit from attending a seminar.
For further information contact the delivery agent for this training programme Rural Support on 028 8676 0040 or visit

Industry out in support for seminars

Farmers and other family members from across Northern Ireland have been turning out in large numbers for the ongoing series of Taxation and Succession Planning Seminars. The meetings have been arranged jointly between CAFRE and Rural Support under the Farm Family Key Skills [FFKS] initiative which is partly funded by the EU under the NIRDP 2014-2020. The seminars cover a range of business planning topics including tax issues, succession planning and business resilience and risk management. The presentations are delivered by a range of speakers from Rural Support to qualified accountants and solicitors. The take home message from the presentations included the need for financial budgeting and forecasting, the need to develop a succession plan and make a will and a range of tax and debt management tips.

The seminars have been well received and have ended with a lively Q&A session which provided the opportunity for the speakers to highlight the key areas which farmers should address with their own accountant and solicitor, on a regular basis.James McKee from Darkley, who attended the first seminar at Greenmount Campus said: “It was great to be updated on these important issues from a range of excellent speakers who obviously had a very good understanding of the issues facing farmers,” while Donal McAtamney from NIAPA said: “I would encourage all farmers, farm family members and farm employees not to miss the opportunity to attend one of these seminars.” The current series of seminars will continue with events planned for:

· Canal Court Hotel, Newry on Monday 15 January 2018,

· Kilmorey Arms Hotel, Kilkeel on Wednesday 17 January 2018,

· Benedy Community Centre, Dungiven on Tuesday 23 January 2018,

· AFBI, Hillsborough on Wednesday 24 January 2018,

· Donn Carragh Hotel, Lisnaskea on Thursday 25 January 2018

· Fir Trees Hotel, Strabane on Tuesday 30 January 2018.

Each event gets underway at 8.00 pm with doors opening at 7.30 pm.Further event dates will be released later in the year.The seminars are free to farmers, members of the farm family and employees.For further information, telephone the programme delivery agent Rural Support on 028 8676 0040