A Norfolk poultry farmer who raised awareness of mental health issues as he battled terminal cancer has been posthumously named NFU Farming Champion of the Year.
Described as a determined, inspirational man who drove his business and the sector forward, and as a “friend who was always there”, Patrick Joice spoke out after he realised first-hand how debilitating mental health issues can be, following his diagnosis.
He shared his experiences with candour, organised a charity cricket match that raised more than £50,000 for the charity YANA (You Are Not Alone), and became involved with the global ‘Naked Farmer’ social media movement, which aims to smash stigmas around mental health issues in the industry.
His wife, Zanna, attended the Farmers Weekly Awards on his behalf.
Mr Joice was presented with the award by NFU President Minette Batters on the family farm in September, shortly before he passed away.
Mrs Batters said: “While this is an incredibly sad time for Patrick’s family and everyone who knew him, it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate the incredible leadership he demonstrated raising awareness of, and funds for, mental health issues.
“He showed great bravery sharing his own experiences. His getting involved with the ‘Naked Farmer’ social media movement resonated with farmers everywhere. He has been an inspiration and leaves a legacy that will change many lives for years to come; a legacy his family can be proud of.”
Mr Joice was a hugely respected member of the NFU Poultry Board, a former Norfolk group secretary and former chairman of the NFU’s Poultry Industry Programme (PIP), which aims to build the next generation of leaders in the sector.
Fellow PIP participant John Savory said he was “a friend like no other”.
He remembered problem-solving sessions around the kitchen table, Mr Joice’s 'fantastic ideas', motivational qualities, unrivalled humour and cheekiness, and a shared passion for Series One Land Rovers.
He added: “I’m already missing him dreadfully. I feel we’ve all lost a really exceptional man.
“Aside of his drive to do well in business, Paddy was a devoted husband and father to his two gorgeous children, Jack and Olivia. I’m chuffed to say I am Jack’s godfather and can only hope to fulfil that role in a way that he would wish now, when they most need me.
“Paddy’s bravery and honesty about his struggles were most admirable and his legacy to YANA pretty much sums up the man we knew and loved.
“I’m so proud to have had him as one of my very best friends and do so hope that others continue to benefit from all that he has achieved in raising mental health awareness in farming.”
NFU Chief Poultry Adviser Gary Ford said: “I will always respect Patrick. We must take heart and remember his can-do attitude that ‘something good must come from this’.”