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Fearn farmer backs wellbeing survey at time of 'unimaginable change' in agriculture sector in mental health drive aimed at lending a helping hand


By Hector MacKenzie

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John Scott.
John Scott.

A GROUND-BREAKING initiative to help farmers and crofters avoid the “dark path” that can stem from “unimaginable change” in the sector is being championed in Ross-shire.

Increasing concern around farmer and crofter wellbeing has prompted agricultural partners to adopt a successful New Zealand model.

A steering group chaired by Fearn Farm’s beef, sheep and arable farmer, John Scott, will drive it forward.

It follows a “drought, adversity and breaking new ground” tour led by New Zealand farmer Doug Avery, who spoke frankly about his own challenges with mental health and wellbeing.

Mr Scott said: “Agriculture is facing unimaginable change that will impact generations and could require complete restructuring of farming practices.

“Many of these challenges we can’t control, they will happen regardless of how well we rear our livestock, grow our crops or manage our finances.

“This significantly impacts the way we think and farm, it tests our resilience and can, at times, take us down a dark path when we feel overwhelmed, anxious or simply just knackered.

“When Doug visited Scotland, we were astounded by the response, highlighting the appetite from farmers and crofters, to better understand how we can manage our own wellbeing through shared learning, events and resources.

“This new survey will give us insights to understand how farmers and crofters are feeling, what type of activities and resources would best support them and how they should be delivered.”

It is supported by Scotland’s Rural College, the National Mental Health Forum, RHASS and the Scottish Rural Network and aims to emulate the New Zealand Farmstrong wellbeing programme that helps farmers to “live well, to farm well”.

It is designed by farmers for farmers. Kate Lamont from SRUC said: “The survey has been designed by farmers, for farmers. You can answer on your phone, tablet, computer or you can get a paper copy. It would be really good to hear how you cope and what you think would help others.”

Mr Scott added: “Our hope is to launch the Farmstrong model here in Scotland, in 2022/23, developed for farmers by farmers.

“This research will be integral in ensuring we get it right and offer something that has huge benefits to all those involved, while also supporting and partnering with existing organisations and charities.”

All steering committee members volunteer their time.

To take part in the survey, farmers and crofters should visit www.dougaveryscotland.co.uk before the end of May this year.


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