'Don't take agricultural shows for granted in mental health battle', union chief urges farmers

The role of agricultural shows to help tackle the taboo subject of mental health in farming should not be overlooked, one of the country’s most prominent farm leaders has said.

The 144th Driffield Show was held this week. Picture by Simon Hulme.

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A sheep exhibitor enjoying his appearance in the ring at the 144th Driffield Show. Picture by Simon Hulme.

Guy Smith, deputy president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said farmers sometimes take the long-running programme of annual summer shows for granted, when they should be “cherished”.

Shows, and other get-togethers for farmers, present “therapeutic” opportunities for peers share their strains and they can help to crystallize, in younger generations’s minds, pride in their agricultural roots.

Mr Smith, who left his farm in Essex to attend the 144th Driffield Show this week, said: “It’s really good to see these agricultural shows in good fettle.

“I think we worry about mental health in agriculture sometimes and quite rightly so. A lot of farmers are feeling under pressure but I think we overlook some of the easy ways to combat some of this, and that is just getting farmers to come out and meet each other.

“That old adage of a problem shared is a problem halved is very true.”

Yorkshire’s busy agricultural show season continues apace this weekend. Today, Bingley Show is held at Myrtle Park in Bingley and Bishop Wilton Show and Craft Fair takes place at High Callis Wood Farm in Bishop Wilton.

“Any occasion that gets farmers out meeting their peers, talking about issues I think is a therapeutic plus, and I think sometimes as farmers we take these shows for granted,” Mr Smith said.

“We should always remember that it is important to explain to the younger generations why they are important. They are more than a day out, they are a celebration of who we are and why we come together, and their roots are very much in the industry and in the land.

“It’s also a great opportunity to show ourselves off to the wider public and that’s a really positive, therapeutic thing to do as well. Let’s never take them for granted, let’s always cherish them.”

Farm Safety Week has seen awareness raised all this week about mental and physical health in the industry. The latest campaign followed a recent Health and Safety Executive study that linked the effects of farm stress with workplace injuries.

Tom Price, the NFU’s national farm safety and transport adviser, said: “Physical safety and mental health go hand in hand.”