“Industry Wide Support is Needed to Help Keep the Agri-Sector Propelling Along,” says Rural Support

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“Industry Wide Support is Needed to Help Keep the Agri-Sector Propelling Along,” says Rural Support

“Industry Wide Support is Needed to Help Keep the Agri-Sector Propelling Along,” says Rural Support

June 6, 2024 Victoria Ross

At the recent Balmoral Show, Rural Support in partnership with ABP hosted a panel discussion event entitled ‘One Industry with Connected Solutions for Tomorrow’s Challenges’ which was attended by various stakeholders within the agri-sector. This event explored an industry wide perspective on what actions need to be taken to ensure that farmers are supported to secure the future of the industry.

Speakers at the event included Liam McCarthy, Supply Chain Development ABP, William Irvine President of Ulster Farmers’ Union, Gyles Dawson Head of Therapeutical Services & Crisis Support at Rural Support and Damien Tumelty a full-time farmer from Castlescreen Farm.  

William Irvine, Ulster Farmers’ Union, commented that farmers in Northern Ireland have faced a tsunami of challenges in recent years including Brexit, Climate Change, the Ukraine War and TB to name but a few which all have a lasting and long-term effect on our farmers farm business and personal wellbeing. He continued by suggesting that although farmers can play its part in helping address climate change, it cannot face all of these challenges alone and therefore need the agri-sector to join forces and help meet these challenges head on.

One panel member Co Down farmer Damien Tumelty, spoke honestly and candidly about the impact TB had on his farm business, him personally and his family, encouraging others to speak out and seek help should they find themselves in this situation. Damien said “In February 2022 one of our bullocks indicated it had TB and between then and November 2023 my herd of 150 Dexter cattle was wiped out. Suddenly the yard became very quiet, and I had more time with my thoughts such as what’s going to happen now and what does the future hold for my family? I was in a dark place and didn’t know what to do – it does have an effect on you both mentally and emotionally. I then decided to lift the phone to Rural Support to see what support they could provide. They were brilliant! They provided a business mentor to help me through my business issues and also a counsellor I could talk to in the comfort of my own home – they really understood me and helped me see a way forward.”

Liam McCarthy indicated the impact their staff are seeing on the ground and how building connections with Rural Support are helping them deal with very difficult situations. Liam commented on the impact succession planning has on older generations and particularly where there is ‘no-one for the farm business’ and there’s no clear path for the farm business they have built.

At Rural Support we understand how rewarding but equally how challenging farming can be at times and the impact this can have not only on the farmer but also the whole family. It’s normal to feel sad, angry or low sometimes but if you’ve been feeling this way for a while then it’s time to do something about it. Farmers are good at looking after their animal’s health, but what about their own?

Gyles Dawson, Head of Therapeutical Services & Crisis Support at Rural Support said, “Farmers are very proud individuals, and it takes a lot for them to reach out and ask for help. Many will simply bury their heads in the sand and hope to work their way out of the situation, but sadly for many that simply isn’t the case, they need support. There are avenues of support out there but we as an industry need to unite behind our farmers to ensure there is enough resilience within the industry to help keep the agri-sector propelling along. In the last 6 months of 2023/24 there was a 40% increase in calls compared to the same time the previous year and we have also seen a 48% increase in calls from agri-sector employees. Thus, emphasising the need for Rural Supports services and that by the agri-sector working together we can ensure a stronger, healthier more resilient farming community.”

If you would like to hear more about the work of Rural Support and how they could help you, please visit the NI Support Hub www.ruralsupport.org.uk or call their freephone confidential support line 0800 138 1678, open Monday to Friday 9am – 9pm.

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