Young farmers launch campaign to combat mental health problems
- Credit: Devon YFC
Young farmers across East Devon are mobilising to improve mental health in the countryside.
The six clubs in the district – Axminster, Culm Valley, Honiton, Sid and Otter, Whimple and Broadclyst and Yarcombe – have come together to stage two weeks of activities to raise awareness of the danger posed by rural isolation and loneliness.
East Devon Young Farmers Group secretary Megan Broom said: “Mental health is a huge problem in the agricultural industry, with many farmers leading isolated lives. This issue has only worsened due to the pandemic, with 88 percent of 450 young farmers questioned believing that poor mental health was the biggest hidden problem faced by farmers. Moreover, 89 percent of these same individuals agreed that talking about the issue would help to remove the stigma around it and encourage those in need of help to speak out.
“In light of this, young farmers have arranged a Growing Healthy Minds fortnight to try and combat this issue in order to support our members.
“As part of our Growing Healthy Minds fortnight, the Devon Federation of Young Farmers has challenged its members to walk, cycle or run a distance equal to crossing the Atlantic Ocean – a total of 3,310 miles – to keep them fit and healthy. In short, this means that every group has been challenged to complete at least 560 miles. This will involve members recording when they are exercising, with each group then competing to have the highest total miles.”
Megan, who lives and works on a farm in Colyton, added: “Although we are in a pandemic, Young Farmers as a federation are doing all they can to keep going and support members throughout these difficult times. In my opinion, Young Farmers has a wonderful influence upon so many young people and without our members we cannot succeed in the ways we do. Therefore, if you know anyone who is contemplating joining Young Farmers, please do encourage them as I’m sure they would have a brilliant time with like-minded individuals.”
Young Farmers is one of the largest rural youth organisations in the UK dedicated to young people who love agriculture and rural life.
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Megan said you don’t need to be a farmer to join as the membership is diverse, which means there really is something for everyone.
She said: “The federation is led by young people, for young people. Young Farmers provides members aged 10 to 26 with a unique opportunity to develop skills, work with their local community, travel abroad, take part in competitions and enjoy a dynamic social life.”
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, East Devon’s six clubs had action-packed calendars with social events, competitions and skills for life amongst many other activities. All six clubs are focused on fundraising for charity, with the group raising a total of £44,000 in 2019-2020. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, they have had to adapt and change the way they interact to keep their members involved and active.
Megan explained: “Before the last lockdown, clubs had organised socially distanced events in accordance with the government guidelines. Honiton and Yarcombe both held wreath-making evenings while Whimple and Broadclyst and Culm Valley hosted a pumpkin-carving evening. On top of that, Axminster held an evening of go karting while Honiton had a farm walk.”
She added: “Young Farmers gives members the opportunity to learn a number of essential skills such as public speaking and a range of professional qualifications whilst also having a great time! These skills not only help when seeking a job but also help the individual’s confidence at a personal level. We have held speaking competitions virtually in the lockdown, with East Devon having members involved in a wide range of competitions from junior reading to debating.”
Webinars have also been organised so members can carry on learning. Net zero workshops have been staged with the National Farmers Union to help show members how to measure their carbon emissions and make appropriate changes. This is to help achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the whole of agriculture in England and Wales by 2040.