National charity the Farming Community Network (FCN) has launched an initiative to provide different social opportunities aimed at bringing farming and rural communities together. Research published by the FCN and the University of Exeter’s Centre for Rural Policy Research highlighted the importance of socialising for farmers. Exploring the primary causes of loneliness and isolation in farming communities, the research identified a common theme - a need for more social opportunities that fit within farmers’ busy schedules.
The ‘Yarn in a Barn’ initiative will help address loneliness in farming by providing opportunities to bring farmers together. The project also encourages discussions and conversations on topical farming issues or challenges, including changing policy, new schemes and animal disease. The aim is to encourage a positive approach to change, create local support networks and highlight available help and information.
Yarns will be taking place throughout 2023, with FCN volunteer groups currently planning out what will be most relevant for farmers at a local level. For example, FCN’s Dorset Group is planning a quiz in early 2023 with farmers and allied industries, such as vets and local land agents. The group will also be organising farm walks later in the year. Themes and topics of discussion across these events will include mental health awareness, bovine tuberculosis, milk pricing and succession planning.
Yarn in a Barn materialised following the suicide of a farmer in southern England. An FCN volunteer was asked by a farmer to join a group of about 25 local farming neighbours to start a conversation on mental health and how they can look out for each other. The farmer explained that his friends and neighbours found it difficult to know how to talk about the suicide and its impact on the community.
The idea was initiated by a farmer who invited friends, neighbours and the local Young Farmers’ Club. An FCN staff member and a volunteer helped facilitate the discussion. FCN hopes the project will be proactive and positive in its approach, helping to encourage resilience and highlighting available support. Yarn in a Barn follows a series of well-received and well-attended post-Covid ‘Reconnecting’ events coordinated by the charity in 2021. FCN would like to thank the Mercer Charitable Foundation and the Richard Oatley Trust (South West) for their support.