UFU Watch - Focus on the Farm Family

Saturday, 7 March, 2015

A Celebration Evening was held recently to mark the end of a successful six month health and wellbeing programme for farming families in the Glens of Antrim.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union have been working with a range of partners including Northern Health and Social Care Trust, Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland, Rural Support, the Farm Families Health Check Programme and Con Magees GAA to implement the programme called ‘Focus on the Farm Family’. It was held in Glenravel Sports and Community Complex one day per month from September 2014 to March 2015 from 12.15pm-1.30pm.

The aim of the programme was to increase knowledge around a number of key issues, including mental health promotion, farm safety, healthy eating, cancer awareness and dealing with medical emergencies on the farm. The programme also facilitated discussion around these issues and at the end of the programme participants felt well informed and better able to make changes to their lifestyle/farm practices where necessary. An important part of the programme was to offer participants a free health check at the beginning and end of the programme and this was well received with most of the participants taking this opportunity to have their health checked at the Farm Families Health Check screening van under the direction of Coordinator Doreen Bolton.

Each month a special speaker came along and prior to this, the group enjoyed a tasty lunch together which also gave participants the opportunity to chat and relax before the presentation began. Thirty nine people from the local farming community took part in the programme and on the first day Dr Brian Hunter, a local GP from Cullybackey and GP Medical Director of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust spoke about the importance of farm families looking after their own health and wellbeing and highlighted that they were the most important asset on their farm. Subsequent presentations included healthy eating, mental health promotion, cancer awareness, farm safety and how to deal with a medical emergency on the farm. Each person taking part in the programme received a personal health and wellbeing plan containing a lot of useful information and helpful tips. The Ulster Farmers’ Union provided a free bodywarmer to each participant and each family represented also received a free first aid kit during the programme.

This new innovative initiative follows on from previous work carried out by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, Ulster Farmers’ Union and other partners since 2006.  Yvonne Carson Senior Health Promotion Officer, Northern Health and Social Care Trust, commented; "After the terrible spring encountered by farm families in the Glens area in 2013, it was decided to pilot this programme here. It builds on the excellent work carried out by the Farm Families Health Checks Programme and gives participants the opportunity to consolidate the knowledge they have gained over a sustained period.  The idea was very well received by the local farming community and the programme has been very successful and very well evaluated.  It is hoped this model can be replicated with other farming families in other areas of Northern Ireland.

Dr Brian Hunter added; "We’re glad the programme has been a positive experience and has been of benefit to so many local farm families.  It also provided the opportunity for farm families to come together socially which is very important in rural areas."

UFU deputy president Barclay Bell; “This programme was a perfect opportunity for the farming community to come together and think about their health and wellbeing.  Farmers work long hours and don’t always have the time to go to their local GP for a routine check-up which is why the farm families’ health check van is vital to those living in rural areas.  It was also beneficial to hear from a number of guest speaks throughout the programme who focused on a number of key areas that affects many of us daily.  Following discussions the speakers gave us a lot of useful information and helpful tips that could make a difference to improving our health and wellbeing going forward.” 

The Celebration Evening also brought together a group of farming women from the Glens who completed a six week reminiscence programme with Reminiscence Network Northern Ireland and produced a booklet entitled ‘Women’s Memories of Farming Life in the Glens of Antrim’. Both projects were funded by the Public Health Agency.