Farmers and rural communities will benefit from health and wellbeing support across the North of England over the next two years, following a successful £150,000 funding bid by a consortium of well-established agricultural organisations.

The six-figure sum, awarded by Defra is being shared between The Farmer Network Ltd in Cumbria, the Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Yorkshire Rural Support Network, Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services (UTASS) based in the Durham Dales and Field Nurse, which operates across Lancashire and North Yorkshire.

The funding comes at a time when farmers are working hard to meet the challenges of adapting to major changes to government farm payments, while recent months of wet weather has damaged crops and resulted in high losses over lambing.

Using the funds, the bid partners seek to enhance their collective mission to build connected and resilient farming communities, and “keep farming stronger for longer”. To do so, they will deliver 14 farming focused first aid training courses, 10 mental health awareness courses for farmers and those working with farmers, and activities to reduce isolation in rural communities such as social events, lunch clubs, farm visits and other trips.

There will be support for groups, such as women in farming, the over 50s and younger farmers over the age of 28 who are too old to attend Young Farmer Club events. Some 38 events will be organised by UTASS, The Farmer Network and the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.

Regular outreach clinics will be set up at seven auction marts across Cumbria, Yorkshire and Durham before the end of 2024 to provide useful information about farm support schemes, to help farmers access their Rural Payments Agency account and to signpost to other support.

One-to-one advice will be provided to 22 farm businesses, and four workshops will help farming communities become more resilient by focusing on topics such as succession planning and health and safety on farms.

Field Nurse will be recruiting two more Field Nurses and an extra trailer to extend its service into two new auction marts in Cumbria and North Yorkshire, and to expand its’ ‘Farming Stronger for Longer’ campaign into Cumbria and Yorkshire.

The Farmer Network Ltd is a not-for-profit organisation run by farmers, for farmers. It was established in Cumbria as a not-for-profit company in 2005 and now operates across Cumbria, the Yorkshire Dales, Nidderdale and Northumberland. It helps farmers reduce their costs through group input buying, by organising workshops and training and applying for funding for projects to benefit their businesses.

Adam Day, Managing Director of the Farmer Network Ltd said: “We very much welcome this funding from Defra which will enable us to deliver a range of activities to support farmer health and welfare. This will include outreach clinics at auction marts, events to reduce isolation, one to one advice and workshops to help the farming community become more resilient.

“We also very much welcome the opportunity to work with our partner organisations - UTASS, Field Nurse and the Yorkshire Agricultural Society. Together we aim to provide support to farmers across the North of England.”

The Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) is a registered charity founded in 1837 which supports and promotes agriculture, rural and allied industries throughout the North of England. The Society’s Yorkshire Rural Support Network is made up of farming charities and organisations who come together to promote and provide sources of help – whether practical, financial, medical or emotional – to those who live in farming and rural communities.

Allister Nixon, Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society said: “The Yorkshire Agricultural Society is delighted to be harnessing this collaborative approach alongside key partners in the North of England to make health and wellbeing support accessible to as many people in the farming community as possible.”

As well as delivering mental health and first aid training, YAS’s Yorkshire Rural Support Network will be holding events to bring farming people together in different parts of Yorkshire this Autumn, while the funding means its Yorkshire Farmers Club can offer free industry visits to this over-50s social group until 2026.

UTASS (Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services) was established in upper Teesdale in the 1990s, focused on providing agricultural support. Today, UTASS works with and for the communities across the Durham Dales, helping people gain access to the services, advice and resources that they need to enable them to feel supported, valued, happier and more able to cope. UTASS is passionate about helping people living and working rurally in the dales to overcome the challenges they may face.

Bob Danby, UTASS Manager said: “It has been fantastic to come together with other established and respected farm support groups from across the North to develop this project and we are delighted that Defra have recognised the value that this project offers. We very much look forward to working together over the next two years, to offer a range of opportunities and support for our local farming families.”

Field Nurse, established in 2016, is a small charity employing registered nurses to provide health and well-being advice to farmers and those living in rural communities. It works out of five livestock auctions in Lancashire and North Yorkshire, providing up to six weekly drop-in clinics, as well as attending local agricultural shows and other farming events such as Young Farmers Clubs and farmer discussion groups.

Kathryn Phillips, Field Nurse Trustee said: “We are really pleased to have the opportunity to extend our Field Nurse service further, and to develop strong working relationships with our partner organisations. Together we can achieve so much more to support our farmers and rural communities.”