Charity sees calls spike for help from working farmers

A lifeline charity for farming families who have fallen on hard times has seen a spike in calls for help in Yorkshire during a testing year that has pushed many to the limit.

The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution has seen a spike in working farmers contacting the charity for help. Picture by Ben Birchall/PA Wire.

Up until last week, the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) had given out £292,031 to 139 families in Yorkshire since the start of the year.

The total far exceeds the £234,725 it paid out across the region during the whole of last year.

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North Yorkshire is “consistently the county where there is greatest need”, RABI said, as it revealed that it had given out around £2.2m in England and Wales since the beginning of 2018.

The majority of people who benefit from the charity’s critical support are former farmers and farm workers who no longer work due to age, ill health or disability.

However, the charity’s chief executive Alicia Chivers said there had been “a marked increase” in the number of working farmers contacting RABI.

Reasons for working farmers reaching out have ranged from accidents and illnesses, to the impact of extreme weather conditions.

More than £415,000 has been distributed among working farming families by the charity so far this year.

Meanwhile, another farming charity, the Farming Community Network, has have helped approximately 6,000 people this year and taken on 2,500 cases. The network offers practical and pastoral support to help farming families through hard times.

This year, the wet spring followed by the summer’s long dry spell hit crop and grass growth for many and affected incomes.

The conditions also caused outgoings to spike with some farmers forced to pay higher prices for a tight supply of fodder to make up for shortfalls derived from their own pastures.

Some farmers started using fodder they usually stash for bedding and feed over winter to give to livestock in late summer.

RABI’s support has continued to be needed over the festive season. In Yorkshire this month, the charity has given out about 80 food hampers containing cupboard essentials and a few seasonal treats sourced from Leeds-based Festival Foods.

Overall, more than 650 hampers have been delivered to people who rely on RABI’s help across England and Wales, at a cost to the charity of nearly £50,000.

Most of the hampers have gone to sick, elderly and disabled people in receipt of regular allowances from RABI, typically people aged over 65 on low incomes and with limited savings.

Trish Pickford, head of welfare at the charity, said: “It’s a sad irony that a lot of retired farmers and farm workers, who have spent their whole lives producing food for others, now find it hard to put food on their own tables.

“We go to great lengths to recognise those we help as people, rather than statistics. That’s why we also send out things like birthday cards and flowers.

“It’s important to show someone who may feel isolated that you’re thinking of them. Christmas, for a lot of those we help, is the loneliest time of the year.”

RABI operates a free helpline on 0808 281 9490 and has branch committees operating across Yorkshire, headed up by regional manager Sally Conner.

The charity’s welfare officers visit people in need of their support to build relationships, talk through problems and find possible solutions.

RABI’s Christmas hamper campaign is now in its 13th year and runs until December 31. For details on how to make a donation towards the appeal, see the charity’s website at

To contact the Farming Community Network, call the charity’s free helpline on 03000 111 999.


Guests who attended The Yorkshire Post’s 2018 Rural Awards evening at Pavilions of Harrogate in October helped raise more than £3,700 for the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution.

A silent auction was held as part of the awards celebration for a second year running in conjunction with Impulse Decisions.

Attendees, including staff from rural businesses and members of the wider countryside community, came together for an evening hosted by BBC journalist Harry Gration. The auction gave guests the chance to bid for special experiences and signed memorabilia, among other lots.

Alicia Chivers, RABI’s chief executive, said: “We are most grateful for the generosity of the people who donated lots for the silent auction as well as to those who bought them.

“These funds will be used to further our work providing much-needed assistance to vulnerable farming people.”