Farm Cornwall is a charity set up by a group of farmers and landowners in 2001 to provide initially business support to small family farmers. It was initially set up only for the far West of Cornwall, however, through need and funding requirements the charity expanded its service right across the county.
Those services now fall into the following categories.
1. Financial and debt advice
Farmers have for many years struggled with the level of debt they carry, particularly the tenanted sector. They often struggle to finance their businesses because they have little collateral asset to secure sufficient funding to run their businesses. The consequence of this is we see and increasing level of debt being accrued with suppliers, this of course builds up and causes an immense amount of stress, leading to mental health issues.
Our role would then be to go into that business and try and sort it out, deal with creditors, but then our role differs from other consultants in that we will also deal with the mental anguish that has occurred, by directing the farmer and his family towards mental services, whom we have access through a sister organisation called Farm Fit.2. Successional advice and family dispute resolution
Farming is not just a business, it’s a home and in many cases, it has been a home for generations. Farmers notoriously hang on in charge of the business for too long, they themselves and their family work long hours, tempers and frustrations build, long term ambitions fail to materialise, and disputes and anger builds within the business and the family. Whilst this manifests itself the business begins to fail also. Like above people begin to struggle
Farms have always been physically isolated; however, they have not always been places where the family or the farmer has been alone. Farms have become disconnected with the rest of the community, the numbers of school age children from farms at school is very low, which can lead to bullying at school because they live different lives to other children, i.e. no holidays, having to work at weekends and before and after school. The farmer lives his life in a tractor, perhaps his wife works off the farm, and teenage children don’t communicate.
The younger farmer 25-45 is the one left at home now married with children, working 18 hours day, 7 days a week, doesn’t play sport any more is the most stressed and the most at risk of suicide or mental health breakdown, also possibly linked to succession as in (2). One farmer takes his life a week across the UK.
4. Family and outside influences
Increasingly since covid the family unit has become a stress point, caring for elderly parents, schooling children at home, as well as feeding the animals, milking cows, lambing sheep, and harvesting crops, farmers were seen as “key workers.” Now everyone wants cheap food and for farmers they just can’t do it. https://www.facebook.com/groups/218166873027447
We have seen a rise in domestic abuse since covid, we have even seen a rise for the first time in “County Lines and drugs affecting farming families.”
What do we do beyond the farm business advice?
1. We run a farm women’s group – Cornish Ladies in Wellies which has over 400 members county wide and provides a social setting for women to meet through 3 membership groups across the county https://www.facebook.com/groups/218166873027447
2. We work with other agricultural support organisations like Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution which provide grant aid assistance for school uniforms, grant aid help to employ someone when the farmer becomes sick or injured, grant aid help for making houses suitable for the elderly. Farm Community Network for providing pastoral support. Addington Fund for rural housing and the rural chaplaincy and young farmer movement.
3. We provide training for farmers to understand the new environmental rules and help farmers who struggle with red tape.
For the future
We are setting up a new group to help those isolated younger farmers get off the farm to socialise at a series of events throughout the year in a similar way to our Cornish Ladies in Wellies