Farming News - Waitrose helps start the conversation around mental health in farming

Waitrose helps start the conversation around mental health in farming

27 Sep 2019
Frontdesk / Arable / Livestock

Waitrose & Partners is helping open the conversation on mental health in Britain’s agriculture sector by sponsoring a series of talks hosted by the Farming Community Network (FCN).

Running from September 30th to October 18th, the “Shift Happens” will aim to promote positive mental health, as well as help members of the farming community manage difficult business and personal issues by being more open with their peers.

The talks will focus on the most prominent issues that afflict the mental health of agricultural workers in the UK, which are in accordance with the most common queries received by the Farming Community Network’s farmer helpline in 2018.

According to this data, 42 per cent of queries the FCN received from farmers last year concerned their financial wellbeing, with a third (29 per cent) wanting to discuss their mental health. Other top concerns included animal disease and welfare (13%), agriculture policy from organisations like DEFRA and Natural England, and family relationships (9%).

Tor Harris, Head of CSR at Waitrose & Partners, comments: “In addition to everyday issues, farmers have an array of responsibilities and pressures they have to deal with on a daily basis, from poor weather conditions and severe fluctuations in input costs, to name just a few.

“Farming can be a very solitary existence, which means problems are often faced alone. This is why it is critical that we enable farmers to share the weight of their problems with people in similar circumstances, as just talking about those concerns can have a hugely positive impact.”

Charles Smith, Chief Executive of the Farming Community Network, comments: “British farming is constantly evolving but it is likely to experience some more significant changes in the near future.

“This tour aims to help Britain’s farming community become more resilient in the face of those changes and help them be more prepared mentally for whatever challenges lie ahead. We are incredibly grateful for the support of Waitrose in helping us to facilitate this tour, which we hope will inspire all attendees who are concerned about what the future may hold for them.”


The talks will be hosted by the Farming Community Network and Rural Support Network Northern Ireland, alongside key speaker Doug Avery (pictured), a farmer from New Zealand. Doug runs Bonavaree Farm in South Marlborough, New Zealand, along with his wife Wendy. Doug has faced numerous challenges over the years, including spiralling debts, drought and earthquakes, all of which led to him experiencing mental health issues. But in the face of all of that, the farm’s income has increased tenfold in the past 10 years and it is now one of the top performing beef and sheep enterprises in New Zealand.

The talks will take place in 12 locations, including Peterborough, Gloucestershire and Shropshire. Tickets are available for £10 and can be purchased at:

You can also follow the tour on social media by using the hashtag #ShiftHappensTour.