Unaware that her post would soon create a media storm, 20-year-old Ffion Hooson of Denbighshire, Wales, wrote a heart-felt plea on Twitter regarding her on-going struggles with farming.
‘I’m 20 years old and farming alone and I am constantly putting a brave hard face on… yet deep down I’m pretty much breaking inside… it’s the most I’ve struggled and no one really understands but I have no choice but to carry on.’
After her father suffered from a stroke, Ffion has run her family’s 180-acre beef and sheep farm by herself for the last two years. She has had intermittent help from her mother and friends, but thought it would be unfair to rely on them, leaving the young shepherdess feeling ‘crushed by the responsibility’ of unrelenting work, often in grim weather.
The tweet quickly gained over 2,000 retweets and almost 25,000 likes, sparking an online debate about mental health, with many fellow farmers offering their advice and attention. One said, “You are not alone. I hope you see people from all over the world are pulling for you. And that is something very special.” Yorkshire Shepherdess and entrepreneur, Alison O’Neill, directed Ffion to a page in her book ‘One Woman Farm’ to highlight the similarities in their situations – ‘This homestead, this farm represents a special kind of devotion and as challenging, dirty and exhausting as it is some days, I adore it all the same,’ she writes.
Ffion was unaware that she had posted her statement during a month where various charities are also highlighting the top problem facing UK farmers today (according to a recent survey by the Farm Safety Foundation (FSF)). Organisations such as Yellow Wellies (FSF), the Farming Community Network (FCN) and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) are all stressing the importance of reaching out for help if you are struggling, and their helplines are always a channel for support.
Praised as an inspiration to others for having the courage to highlight the pressures facing UK farmers today, Ffion has commented: ‘People don’t talk enough. I hope that, by doing this, I can get people to open up about how they are feeling.’
With the added stresses of Brexit, the rise of vegan activism and the threat of climate change bringing harsh weather conditions to the UK, farmers are finding that isolation and financial uncertainty are now just the tip of the iceberg.
The FSF believes a combination of these factors has produced an industry under immense pressure, contributing to 83 people in farming and related trades taking their own lives in 2018.
‘I didn’t expect my Tweet to produce such a response but the replies have really cheered me up. I haven’t been through them all yet, but I know that a few people have offered to help on the farm, for which I am very grateful,’ said Ffion in response to her viral post.
We commend Ffion for coming forward with her struggles. May she inspire more rural workers to speak out and seek help regarding their own mental health, farming issues and/or financial problems. Here are just a few examples of the organisations available to help :
FCN – fcn.org.uk/
03000 111 999
RABI – rabi.org.uk/
0808 281 9490
The YANA Project – You Are Not Alone – yanahelp.org
0300 323 0400
(Photo credited to Ffion Hooson)