Plans have been unveiled to set up a new Farming Health Hub in Cornwall to provide a single source of business, physical and mental health support for farmers and their families.

The Farming Health Hub – which is the first of its kind to be developed in England – brings organisations from the private, public and voluntary sectors will join together to provide advice, support and guidance to farming communities pop-up venues at livestock markets and other country events.

Representatives from more than 50 organisations from across the South West attended a special Information event held at the Royal Cornwall Showground in Wadebridge on March 14.

Opening the event, founder Jon James told delegates that the hub aims to complement rather than replace, or compete with, existing organisations.

“We want to create a network where farming communities can access organisations for support and advice in venues such as livestock markets, and at events, and activities where they feel comfortable," he said.

We want them to be able to speak to a professional in their 'welly boots' and to feel confident that the professional has some understanding of the life of the farming community.

“We also want to connect public, private and voluntary sector organisations so they can better support farmers to deal with changes to agriculture and provide advice on how they might reshape their business, secure external funding opportunities or seek welfare support.

'The figures are just the tip of the iceberg'

Prof. Matt Lobley from the University of Exeter has been working closely with James to develop the project.

“Widely publicised figures concerning the suicide rate in farming are just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Stress, depression, feeling miserable and unappreciated are widespread in British farming. Farming has become disconnected from communities and customers, and consequently, farmers have become socially and culturally isolated.

"This raises serious questions regarding the nature, extent and significance of the personal costs and social implications of agricultural change.

“The Farming Health Hub can play a vital role in supporting farmers and farm family members at a time of significant change in the industry.”

Martin Howlett, a mixed livestock farmer and chairman of Cornwall RABI, explained some of the pressures currently facing local farmers.

“Life within the vast majority of family farms revolves around the day-to-day routine of tending stock, seasonal periods of calving and lambing, plus the harvesting of crops – all physical and demanding work," he said.

"Financial impacts of markets, weather and disease threats, each add to the challenges of cash flow within the farm business.

“But it is so often to the detriment of health and wellbeing of each and any member of the family team, that can so easily jeopardise the whole farm business. Having access to a Farming Health Hub here in Cornwall is most welcome and ultimately a lifeline for agriculture.”

The Farming Health Hub aims to offer a range of support within the three main areas, including:

  • General physical health checks - such as eye and hearing tests, diabetes, cholesterol and dental health checks and mental health support, including managing stress, anxiety and depression and coping with rural isolation and loneliness.
  • Delivering mental health campaigns alongside organisations such as Cornwall Young Farmers, Public Health and employers.
  • Support in developing businesses - including financial and legal health checks and advice; education and training; and applications for grant funding and welfare support.

Other plans include providing support for specific groups such as young farmers and women.

“The aim of today’s information day was to gauge the level of support for developing a Farming Health Hub in Cornwall,” said James. “I am delighted with the positive response and am looking forward to turning the concept into reality."

The next step will be to work with interested organisations and companies to set up a partnership board.