Agricultural charity RABI received more than 15,000 responses to its ground-breaking Big Farming Survey that aimed to catalogue how the farming community is coping with the demands of life, both personally and professionally.
The NFU supported the charity by sending out copies in every edition of British Farmer & Grower and Farming Wales, as well as linking to the questionnaire on NFUonline. The forms were filled out between January and April 2021, so they do reflect concerns about Covid-19.
The average age of the respondents was 60, and 76% were men and 24% women.
Members were asked questions about their farm business, their mental and physical health and how they felt about the future. More than 50% felt optimistic about the future of their business, despite some hard-hitting figures around depression and anxiety.
The findings identified five key areas that RABI will use to focus its charitable work and campaigning:
- 36% of the farming community are probably or possibly depressed.
- More than one-half of women (58%) experience mild, moderate or severe anxiety.
- An average of six factors cause stress across the farming community. The most commonly reported sources of stress are: regulation, compliance and inspection, Covid-19, bad/unpredictable weather, loss of subsides/future trade deals.
- Over half (52%) of the farming community experience pain and discomfort, one in four have mobility problems and 21% have problems in undertaking usual tasks due to health issues.
- 59% of respondents believe their business is viable over the next five years.
In the detail
Where you live in the country did not have a significant effect on the results, but the size and type of farm you work does affect wellbeing, with 38% of male farmers on farms of 20-49 hectares reporting depression.
Farmers who reported higher levels of wellbeing and less loneliness tended to be from larger farms and were more likely to be in cereals, general cropping, horticulture and poultry. These farmers were more likely to be able to get away from the farm for social visits and holidays than those on smaller and livestock farms.
A resilient community
“This survey of a generation has revealed that despite the many challenges facing our community, farming people continue to be incredibly resilient and this is something we should focus on. We owe it to every farming person to use this evidence to take action to improve farmer wellbeing,” said RABI corporate partnership manager, Suzy Deeley.
“We believe that farming people and the sector more widely must collaborate to develop solutions to the issues identified. Therefore, RABI will use the results to inform the evolution of our services and welcome others to participate in shaping future farming support,” Ms Deeley continued.
New support schemes
RABI will soon be launching pilots of three new support schemes. These include an accredited, bespoke farming mental health first aid training service, access to in-person mental health support, and further trials of RABI’s Community Pillars initiative.
The December 2021 issue of British Farmer & Grower will look at the survey in greater depth, as well as looking at the resources available to tackle the areas of concern that have been flagged up by the survey.