Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture Edwin Poots has today (Thursday, February 17) announced a series of free workshops to help poultry keepers cope with the pressures of farming.

The Coping with the Pressures of Farming workshops will be delivered as part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise's (CAFRE's) Farm Family Key Skills programme and will focus on recognising the symptoms of excessive stress; exploring ways to build resilience and develop strong mental fitness; and learning how to access specialist support.

The workshops will also encourage participants to think practically about the changes they could make to their lifestyle and/or business to improve their well-being.

They will be available to farmers, their families and their employees and will run both online and in-person.

The workshops are scheduled as follows:

  • Thursday, February 24: 7:30p.m, online; 
  • Tuesday, March 1: 7:30p.m in Omagh, at the Silverbirch Hotel;  
  • Wednesday, March 2: 7:30p.m in Glarryford, at the Farmers Hall; 
  • Thursday, March 3: 7:30p.m in Portadown, at the Seagoe Hotel; 
  • Thursday, March 10: 7:30p.m, online;  
  • Wednesday, March 16: 7:30p.m in Cookstown, at The Royal Hotel. 

The workshops are particularly aimed at the poultry sector due to the stress many farmers have faced because of the current bird flu outbreak, which is the largest-ever outbreak Northern Ireland has seen.

“Being part of a farming family comes with many responsibilities, each having their own element of pressure and stress," said Minister Poots.

"There is no doubt that year’s avian influenza outbreak has added to that. It has been a very difficult time for the poultry sector.

“I do not underestimate the mental strain it has caused to many families and businesses. The workshops being delivered in partnership with Rural Support are another welcome step forward in our efforts to support the poultry sector through this difficult period."

Rural Support's head of farm support, Gillian Reid, said:

“Challenges like disease outbreaks can have an impact on anyone’s mental health. We believe that in order to be able to handle challenges like this, a high level of mental fitness is essential.

"With the avian flu (bird flu) outbreak affecting so many farmers, farming families and indeed many sector workers for such a prolonged period, it was evident that action to support those involved was needed.”

"I am encouraging farmers and their families to prioritise their mental health and avail of this support either by attending the in-person or online workshops," Poots added.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions spaces are limited so registration, which can be done by contacting Rural Support's Farm Support Unit or via the CAFRE website, is required.