In the past almost twenty years, Rural Support have worked through many crisis issues affecting the agricultural community, including disease, drought, landslides and flooding. One that is deeply imprinted in our minds was the devastating flash floods of 2017, that affected many farm businesses across Northern Ireland, and most keenly felt in the Glenelly Valley area in Co Tyrone.
This ‘Act of God’, as these types of natural crises are known, caused significant damage to the farming community, with crops being lost, fences destroyed, debris strewn across farmland and animals being injured and often killed due to the force of the floods. The stress of this on the farmers was immense with practical and financial implications as well as the negative impact on mental health and wellbeing, with long term consequences for many.
Veronica Morris, Chief Executive of Rural Support said, “Not only were homes and farms flooded during this extreme weather event, but infrastructure was destroyed, animals drowned, and fields ruined to a point where recovery became impossible. The negative impact for not only the farmer but their families, farm businesses and local community cannot be underestimated. Unfortunately, as an Act of God, situations such as this are not usually insurable. It is a crisis event that has many ongoing repercussions and are notoriously difficult to plan for. Rural Support were able to meet with the farmers affected three years ago to provide practical and emotional support, and we continue to do what we can, as the effects continue to be felt by farm families in the Glenelly area and elsewhere.”
To help farmers plan, where they can, for crisis situations, as well as the standard issues that face our farming families, Rural Support is launching its Autumn Programme within the coming weeks, including ‘The Business of Farming’, a programme of meetings, workshops and one to one mentoring support, which has been designed to support farmers and their families across Northern Ireland to move through and beyond their current situation – focusing on building resilience and sustainability for the farm business and the farm family itself.
Another project incorporated with the Autumn Programme is the ‘Coping with the Pressures of Farming’ series of workshops that will be delivered across the region as part of CAFRE Farm Family Key Skills. The workshops provide practical support and guidance with the specific aim of helping participants identify stress points, both in themselves and others, and learn how to deal with them. In particular the training focuses on how to recognise the symptoms of excessive stress, exploring ways to build resilience and develop strong mental wellbeing. It will also focus on how to access specialist support when it is needed. Participants also learn how to support family, friends and neighbours who may also be struggling with certain issues – particularly related to mental health.
Farm Business Support Service Coordinator, Gillian Reid said, “We at Rural Support understand how challenging and unpredictable farming can be. We have walked with the farmers through pressures and uncertainty and will continue to do so. We are confident that our Autumn Programme will provide the help, support and encouragement needed to those who have concerns about the future of their farm business or simply want to make practical and productive changes. Dates, locations and how to register will be launched shortly within the press, social media and our website.”
If you or someone you know would benefit from speaking to Rural Support, please ring our helpline on 0800 138 1678. All calls are confidential, the helpline is available 9am-9pm, Monday to Friday (alternative support options available at all times).