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Farmers suffering isolation

March 26th, 2018 7:10 AM

By Emma Connolly

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MORE than half of the farmers who took part in our Great West Cork Farming Survey admitted to feeling isolated in their work. 

And, of that 51%, one in four revealed how this had impacted on their mental health. 

While it was mainly older farmers who said they felt alone in their farming work, almost all respondents agreed that there are not enough mental health supports available for the agri sector. 

The Southern Star survey was completed by 59% males and 41% females, mainly from areas around Clonakilty and Skibbereen. 

A strong emphasis on work-life balance emerged from replies with one saying: ‘Make sure it’s your chosen way of life … never feel that you’re tied to the job; you’ll get no thanks or reward for feeling bad.’

Another stressed the importance ‘of personal down time alone and with your family,’ along with hobbies and holidays. 

A staggering 96% of participants stated they were concerned about price volatility; with a similar percentage expecting Brexit to impact their businesses. 

That prompted advice to have an alternative qualification, to keep an eye on the accounts and to have a good relationship with financial institutions.

One farmer wrote: ‘See it number one as a business and make sure the focus is on profitability, as you can turn into a busy fool – working 24/7 and not having the equivalent of a minimum wage … farming is a vocation but you can become blinded by work and miss the fact that you are not making a living.’

Another suggested getting a job outside the farm and to do farm work at the weekend, morning and evening. 

Attitudes towards Europe were divided with 68% feeling neither the government or the EU were doing enough to protect farm incomes. That feeling was strongest among beef farmers. 

A relatively strong awareness of the necessity of sustainable practices was displayed by respondents with 41% having a sustainable farming strategy in place. 

Having said all that, an optimistic 82% of West Cork farmers said they would recommend farming as a way of life. 

Summing it up one farmer said: ‘It’s tough, but if you really love it you’ll never truly think of it as work, more a way of life.’

• For more see our West Cork Farming magazine with this week’s edition.

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