The unseasonal heavy rain fall has again resulted with farmers who did not drill all their winter crops. We have decided to reduce our arable acreage and increase the grass, thus allowing us to buy more cattle in the spring.
Grass fed beef cattle are sustainable as they replace many nutrients which improves the soil and worm count creating a healthy soil structure which is also improved by year-round ground cover which secures our topsoil from being washed away during the heavy down pours which have become increasingly torrential.
Adam Henson the Cotswolds-based farmer and TV presenter, well known to viewers of BBC’s Countryfile, has launched a new podcast called Adam Henson’s Keeping On Track with the production company TeamDoctor.
Adam is aware that he and many others who work in the farming sector talk about farming being the best job in the world. For many this is indeed true, but as he says, there is a darker side to agriculture and many of those who work in the industry are stressed, troubled and suffering mental ill-health. Some are sadly committing suicide.
We all ask our friends, how are you doing? The reply usually comes back, as we also respond to this question, “I’m alright”. Increasingly farmers are not all right, but they are loath to admit it. We are of course fortunate to live in the countryside with green fields, rolling hills, woodland and ample flora and fauna. But, as Adam has said, farming is an unpredictable way of life with income, savings and often the roof above a farming families head dependent on outside factors; the weather, production costs, yields, market prices, subsidy levels, interest rates, animal disease and so on.
Rural isolation does not help, particularly when many farmers today work alone. In years gone by even small-scale farms would employ both permanent staff and part timers at peak times such as harvest, lambing, and shearing. These were often friends, neighbours, and willing volunteers from the nearest village.
These are not the only changes as today to run a farm business we must be skilled in accountancy and the use of computers, which some find overwhelming. It is a well-known fact that farmers are twice as likely to take their own lives as the national average. A recent national survey revealed that more than 90% of UK farmers under 40 say poor mental health is the biggest hidden problem they face.
Adam’s podcast includes 15 episodes giving first-hand testimonials from farmers and agricultural students who have suffered, along with advice from mental health experts. Also, support from the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI), the Farming Community Network (FCN), the Samaritans and the National farmers’ Union (NFU). teamdoctor.org/farmers