Meet the Yorkshirewoman who is a listening ear for struggling farmers - along with a deformed bullock 'support animal'

A castrated bullock, farm dog book character and alter ego of Helga the Bavarian stomper might seem a curious mix for a West Riding farmer’s daughter, but they all serve a purpose in maintaining a mother’s wellbeing.

Georgina Lamb is national partnerships manager and regional lead in Yorkshire and the North of England for the Farming Community Network.

Georgina said that she was attracted to FCN because of its development in recent years in reaching out to all in the farming and rural community.

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“I’ve sold raffle tickets at ploughing matches and raised money for agricultural charities for years, but the FCN really interests me as it gets to the heart of the matter. It’s not all about money.

Georgina co-ordinates the Farm Crisis Network and identifies farmers who may be strugglingGeorgina co-ordinates the Farm Crisis Network and identifies farmers who may be struggling
Georgina co-ordinates the Farm Crisis Network and identifies farmers who may be struggling

“In my experience farmers will fight tooth and nail to make sure they don’t ask for help. It often drains them by not opening up or looking for support, but we are trying to get the message across that asking for help is a strength not a weakness.

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“It’s not just something for those who find themselves in financial difficulty. You can’t buy your way out of depression, dementia, grief, anxiety and ultimately that acute stress that affects your ability to make any decisions.

“Historically we were called The Farm Crisis Network which gave the impression that we were only there when things had gone wrong and reached that point when it might have already, tragically, been too late.

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“Our aims today are that we want to be able to support local networks in order to reach people way before any crisis point. It is much more about positive mental health and everyone’s wellbeing and recognising when that isn’t the case.”

Georgina said that FCN is about getting the message out and arming others in the farming and rural community.

“We are appealing to anybody who has a direct connection with farmers and farming families to have a greater awareness of how someone might feel, and be prepared to spend a little time chatting, having a cuppa, particularly if you feel there might be something wrong. Of course, there might be nothing wrong at all, but it’s sometimes just a good idea to have a conversation, get the person talking, rather than having that very British stiff upper lip mentality.

“A vet might go on farm to see an animal and perhaps feel that the farmer or his partner may not be themselves. It may be that the person is naturally quiet, but it is about reading a situation. At FCN we are trying to give this kind of training for others to recognise that going on to a farm does not always have to be wholly about talking business.

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“You could be walking into a situation where someone has just lost someone or an animal close to them; or there could have been some relationship breakdown. The calls we receive regularly are about mental health, depression, financial problems, succession, animals, the weather and relationship breakdowns.”

Georgina said more and more businesses that have personal connections with the farming community are coming on board to take advantage of what FCN offers.

“We run a range of training sessions to educate businesses and individuals on how they can support. We are driven by what’s happening on the ground and the challenges farming families face will dictate what we do.

“We do a lot of work on mental health and wellbeing training, including the journey ahead. We know that most farmers don’t like to or never retire. We can support with help on such as future planning and succession which can sometimes cause extreme stress to all concerned.

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“We are run by farmers for farmers and we understand agriculture, which is important when it comes to trust. Our volunteers are all from a farming or rural background.”

Georgina grew up on her parents’ Upper Brear Farm at Stump Cross where their land looks over towards Shibden Hall, and she still lives close by.

Georgina’s own wellbeing comes from her daughter Dolly, born during the pandemic; donning her outfit as Helga and singing in her father Frank Chislett’s Amazing Bavarian Stompers; and her love of horses, which sees her competing in dressage; and her eight-year old bullock.

“Dad has a small commercial beef herd. Eight years ago my cow Princess produced a whopping but severely deformed bull calf, Prince. Deformed legs, muscular problems. I splintered him, got him to walk and fell in love with him. He is enormous, probably a tonne of uselessness, but he’s my support animal. Whenever I’m having a bad day I’ll go to him and have a snuggle.

“And he’s become a bit of a carer, not just for me but any new cows about to calve. I think he’s as much about FCN as me!”

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