Cornwall unveils plans to develop England’s first Farming Health Hub

14 March 2019

With Cornwall’s farming community coming under ever increasing pressures from rising costs, the potential impact of Brexit and the introduction of the new Agricultural Bill, exciting plans are being developed to set up a new Farming Health Hub in the county to provide a single source of business, physical and mental health support for farmers and their families.

The Farming Health Hub – the first of its kind to be developed in England– is a totally new concept where organisations from the private, public and voluntary sectors will join together to provide advice, support and guidance to farming communities in local venues, such as livestock markets and pop up venues rather than farmers and their families having to visit more formal environments.

The original idea for the Hub came from Jon James who wanted to build on Cornwall’s reputation for partnership working to create a new organisation in which private, public and voluntary sector organisations worked together to provide confidential advice around Physical Health, Mental Health and Business Health to farmers and their families in their day to day lives.

Since coming up with the original concept at the end of last year, Jon has been liaising with a wide range of organisations, including the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution; the Prince’s Countryside Fund; the National Farmers Union; Cornwall Young Farmers; Exeter University; Cornwall’s Public Health team, NHS Kernow and GP’s; Cornwall Development Company; auctioneers, banks and insurance companies and local churches, to test interest in setting up a new Community Interest Company and Partnership Board to lead the new initiative.

Details of the new Farming Health Hub were outlined to representatives from more than 50 organisations from across the South West today at a special Information event held at the Royal Cornwall Showground in Wadebridge.

Opening the event Jon James told delegates that the support and involvement of the private, public and voluntary sectors was vital if the idea of creating a Hub was to be taken forward.

“The Hub is not being developed to replace or compete with existing organisations but to compliment and provide a single source of support and information for the farming community“ he said.

“We want to create a network where farming communities can access organisations for support and advice in venues such as livestock markets, and at events, and activities where they feel comfortable.  We want them to be able to speak to a professional in their “ welly boots” and to feel confident that the professional has some understanding of the life of the farming community”. 

“We also want to connect public, private and voluntary sector organisations so they can better support farmers to deal with changes to agriculture and provide advice on how they might reshape their business, secure external funding opportunities or seek welfare support and advice.

Professor Matt Lobley from the University of Exeter has been working closely with Jon James to develop the project.  “Widely publicised figures concerning the suicide rate in farming are just the tip of the iceberg” he said. “Stress, depression, feeling miserable and unappreciated are widespread in British farming. Farming has become disconnected from communities and customers, and consequently farmers have become socially & culturally isolated. This raises serious questions regarding the nature, extent and significance of the personal costs and social implications of agricultural change. 

“The Farming Health Hub can play a vital role in supporting farmers and farm family members at a time of significant change in the industry.”

Someone who is well aware of the pressures on farmers is Martin Howlett, a mixed livestock farmer and Chairman of Cornwall RABI. “Life within the vast majority of family farms revolves around the day-to-day routine of tending stock, seasonal periods of calving and lambing, plus the harvesting of crops – all of physical & demanding work. Financial impacts of markets, weather and disease threats, each add to the challenges of cash flow within the farm business.” he said. 

“But it is so often to the detriment of health and wellbeing of each and any member of the family team, that can so easily jeopardise the whole farm business. Having access to a Farming Health Hub here in Cornwall is most welcome and ultimately a lifeline for agriculture.”.

Jon James has been working with Cornwall Council’s Wellbeing and Public Health team.  Dr Ruth Goldstein, Public Health Consultant, said The public health team in Cornwall Council are keen to encourage and support healthy lifestyles for all the population of Cornwall. Physical and mental health of this community are key to a successful farming industry in Cornwall. We know that the farming community struggle to engage with some health and wellbeing initiatives so we are excited to be part of the hub which will make it easier for us to reach the farming community. “

Chris Riddle is Secretary of the Royal Cornwall Agricultural Association which organises the annual Royal Cornwall Show. “Initiatives such as this are a very welcome added resource and source of reassurance and support to the farming community, many of whom work in often quite isolated situations where the pressures of modern farming and business life can, at times, be rather overwhelming“ he said. “The Association wish the scheme every success’.

Hilary Wood from Cornwall Food and Farming also welcomes the proposal to set up the new Hub.  “This is an important and timely initiative. So often in farming there is a connection between these problem areas –  financial worries, for instance, putting a strain on physical or mental health.  The opportunity for a holistic approach is to be welcomed. “

The aim of the Farming Health Hub is to offer a range of support within the three main areas. These include general physical health checks, such as eye and hearing tests, diabetes, cholesterol and dental health checks and mental health support, including managing stress, anxiety and depression and coping with rural isolation and loneliness. The Hub would also work with organisations such as Cornwall Young Farmers, Public Health and health partners, and employers to deliver mental health campaigns.

Farmers would also be offered support in developing their businesses, including financial and legal health checks and advice; support with education and training and applications for grant funding and welfare support. Other plans include providing support for specific groups such as young farmers and women.

“The aim of today’s Information Day was to gauge the level of support for developing a Farming Health Hub in Cornwall” said Jon “ I am delighted with the positive response and am looking forward to turning the concept into reality. “

Jon will now be working with interested organisations and companies to set up Partnership Board.


Notes to editors  

  • Physical Health Support
      • General physical health checks (Access to nurses)
      • Eye tests
      • Hearing tests
      • Health MOT for over 60’s
      • Diabetes checks
      • Blood pressure check
      • Back pain
      • Dental checks
      • Checking of cholesterol levels
      • Physio/Chiropractor clinics
      • Podiatrist clinics
      • GP referrals
  • Mental Health Support
      • Managing stress
      • Managing anxiety
      • Coping with depression
      • Coping with rural isolation and loneliness
      • Delivering mental health campaigns
      • Mental health awareness and workshops
      • Providing welfare support (Outreach work at Markets etc.)
      • Development of mental health advocates – Local community, businesses, etc.
      • Signposting to agricultural chaplain
      • Awareness training for businesses (Resilience Training)
  • Business Health Support
      • Financial and Legal health checks
      • Creation of Farming Health Hub physical and virtual portals
      • Capacity and skills building
      • Legal, financial and insurance advice
      • Farm Bureau – Compliance support with paperwork
      • Farming business support network
      • Support with education, training (i.e. IT, Dyslexia etc.)
      • Signposting for hardship support
      • Support group for women in farming
      • Next generation group – working with the Young Farmers
      • Support with funding opportunities
      • Sharing of knowledge and experience
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