The Yorkshire Agricultural Society is best known for its flagship events, the Great Yorkshire Show and Countryside Live, but its work supporting agriculture is carried out year round.
Under its umbrella are a number of organisations including the Future Farmers of Yorkshire, the Farmer Scientist Network, the Yorkshire Rural Support Network (YRSN) and its shop and café, Fodder, which works with more than 350 farmers.
YRSN members are drawn from a number of organisations, for example RABI, Farm Community Network and the churches, who work on the ‘frontline’ to help reduce stress and improve the health of the county’s rural communities.
Members meet regularly to share information and experience to enable a ‘joined-up’ practical approach supporting those living and working in the countryside.
It is hosted by the society which also provides funding; the voluntary role of network chairman is taken by Philippa Coultish who is from a farming family and is actively involved in RABI in West Yorkshire.
Philippa said: “Have you heard the saying “Old farmers don’t die...they just smell that way!? Well actually they do die, and sadly sometimes partly because they did not seek help early enough for a treatable condition.”
Working long and anti-social hours combined with a reluctance to admit to not feeling on top of the world means farmers are amongst the least likely to visit their GP and rarely for a routine check-up. This is where the Farmer Health Checks come in which are being co-ordinated by YRSN.
For some years this free service has been offered at many Yorkshire auction marts. On August 25 and 26 respectively, health advice will be available in ‘Beryl’, the green Macmillan bus at Thirsk and Leyburn marts.
There will be health checks available at Thirsk and Skipton marts to tie in with the Christmas Fatstock Shows.
A friendly, approachable team of health professionals is on hand to carry out routine tests on heart rate, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure providing the opportunity for farmers to be screened at what is a convenient place and time to them. Usually it provides reassurance that all is well but it also offers the chance to tease out other health issues.
Problems relating to diet, sleep, weight, or even deeper health concerns can be identified. The screening team will, where necessary, refer farmers to see their own GP. The value of the checks is without doubt. Of the 39 people screened at the Great Yorkshire Show almost a third – 13 – were referred for further investigations.
Information on keeping healthy is included in the network’s free Fit for Farming booklet. For more details on this and the network see http://yas.co.uk/charitable-activities/yorkshire- rural-support-network or ring the network co-ordinator Kate Dale on 01423 546217.