Helpline / Outreach / Technical
Lindsay was born and raised in Scotland and after studying Agriculture at Edinburgh University he moved to Northern Ireland in 1977 taking up a research post at the Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland (now AFBI Hillsborough). Lindsay led a team carrying out arable crop and renewable energy research until he retired in 2012. He was also a lecturer in Agriculture at Queen’s University. Over this time Lindsay worked with many farmers and farming groups across the region. Having been a founder member of the Ulster Arable Society Lindsay has continued his involvement with the organisation and currently maintains the Society’s website.
Why did you decide to get involved with Rural Support?
‘After I retired I was looking for an opportunity to continue supporting the agricultural community in a voluntary capacity, making use of the experience and skills I had gained over the years. Initially I helped with a mentoring programme that promoted succession planning and when that scheme finished I contacted Rural Support and volunteered to help with their helpline.’
What does your role as a volunteer involve?
‘After Rural Support provided initial training I have been taking evening and weekend periods on the telephone helpline as part of a rota. Most weeks I do at least one session. In addition I have promoted Rural Support by manning stands at Agricultural events and Shows, and giving short talks at meetings and Conferences. Rural Support have training events every couple of months which bring the volunteers together and which I also attend.’
‘In response to calls to the helpline I have also met up with a number of farmers facing particular problems in order to provide them with support and to assess whether other professional agencies could provide them with further help and assistance’
What aspect of your volunteering do you enjoy most and why?
‘I particularly enjoy the direct contact with farmers. Last Christmas I was able to deliver Christmas Hampers on behalf of Rural Support to a number of the farmers I had been providing support to and it was great to bring some Christmas cheer to those who had been facing tough times and hopefully alleviate some of the additional pressures faced at this time of year.’
What sort of situations have you encountered during your time as a volunteer so far?
‘Every helpline call and situation is different. My first helpline call was as a result of a farm theft which caused great stress for the farmer. Some of the farm visits I have had have arisen because of difficult family relationships arising where a son and father are sharing management of the farm, or due to illness where the farmer is no longer able to run the farm properly.
What are the main issues?
‘The majority of calls to the Rural Support helpline are related to financial issues and we are all aware of the financial pressure across the whole of the agricultural industry at the present time. However, it is often the case that there are other underlying issues which may be related to health, succession planning, compliance with DARD regulations or family relationships, for example. It usually takes one or more farm visits to tease out the real problems which need to be addressed.’
What would you say to someone who is experiencing worry and stress?
‘Don’t hesitate to contact Rural Support on their helpline as you will always find a friendly and helpful person on the end of the line. Rural Support has extensive links with other aid agencies and also has well trained and professional mentors so we are able to direct helpline callers to those best placed to give them the help they need. Rural Support volunteers understand farming and its pressures and are more than ready to provide a listening ear, and are ready to support those in our farming community who are facing difficult times.’
What issues do you think farming families will face in the future?
‘Agriculture is currently going through a very difficult time with low financial returns across the industry. While, hopefully, things will improve financial difficulties will always happen and cause stress, as will illness. As the average age of farmers in Northern Ireland increases succession planning I believe will become a bigger and bigger issue.’
Sincere thanks to Lindsay Easson for this interview.
If you or someone you know could benefit from talking with someone from Rural Support or if you would like to avail of the financial mentoring currently being offered please contact Rural Support’s helpline (0845 606 7 607, 8am-11pm daily). All calls are confidential.