Just ten years ago, the country was in the grip of an outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease. Every television news bulletin featured horrifying pictures of the funeral pyres of thousands of sheep, cattle and pigs, with mechanical diggers excavating huge pits in which the remains were buried.
It was a desperate time for Britain’s farmers – those whose animals were affected watched helplessly as their life’s work was simply slaughtered and buried while others waited in isolation, hoping and praying that nothing and nobody would bring the disease on to their land.
Many farmers decided to call it a day and move into other jobs with a different lifestyle. For those who stayed it took years to recover – both financially and emotionally. Even today, there are farmers and members of farming families who will shed tears at the memory of those dark and bitter times.
Although foot and mouth disease remains a frightening memory, there are many other problems and challenges for Britain’s farmers and for the members of farming families – animal disease such as bovine tuberculosis, physical and mental health problems, domestic strife, bereavement, accidents, coping with government red tape, financial problems – the list is seemingly endless and all these matters can appear much worse with the isolation of a rural lifestyle. This is when the volunteers of Farm Crisis Network and the service of the Agricultural Chaplaincy step in. Their role is to provide pastoral and practical support by walking with those in difficulty while the problems are resolved.
Fred who farms in Derbyshire is a perfect example of how this support can help:
His doctor and hospital consultant had already, on two occasions, arranged for him to have a hip replacement operation but Fred claimed that he simply couldn’t leave the farm at the present time. Fred was persuaded to telephone the FCN Helpline, who alerted the Agricultural Chaplain. Within 24 hours a visit was made. It was made plain to Fred that his health and well being was of paramount importance and so, with this on - going support Fred compiled a priority list of things that needed doing – contacting the authorities to ensure that the identifying paperwork for his cattle was in order, updating all the livestock records and then organising for someone to look after his stock until he was back in action. Within a few weeks everything was in place and Fred is now bouncing around with a new hip.
Farm Crisis Network works closely with other support agencies throughout much of England and Wales, including the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) & the Agricultural Chaplaincy Association (ACA). Volunteers are ready and prepared to help farmers when the problems they face become overwhelming. If you feel that you could help, please get in touch. You could make a real difference to someone’s life.
As Fred said: “I didn’t realise there were people out there who could help so much. Thank you”
Email here or telephone 0845 3138800 / 01629 592970.
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