An innovative new pilot programme, FarmConnect, has been developed to support Irish farmers in addressing some of the health and well-being issues that can have a severe impact on them, and as a result, on overall farm safety.

The main aim of FarmConnect is to improve farm safety by improving individual farmer health and well-being.

“Scientific and academic studies have highlighted serious concerns about Irish farmer ill-health and occupational injury,” said programme coordinator, Clare Thomas.

“Recent research shows that Irish farmers are seven times more likely to die from heart disease than salaried workers. This is just one example of farmer health and well-being issues.”

FarmConnect contends that the situation can be remedied by supporting farmers to make improved decisions around their own individual health and well-being, Clare said.

“We are taking a new approach by putting the individual farmer’s own welfare and well-being first,” she said.

“It’s a win-win situation. Making small, practical, positive changes that improve a farmer’s personal well-being also has positive outcomes for farm safety and productivity.”

Two counties, Roscommon and Waterford, have been selected for the roll-out of the pilot project scheduled for autumn 2022.

The project is in the final development stage, with a new capacity-building training programme being developed specifically for FarmConnect in tandem with a dedicated website, the resources of which will include a health and well-being-focused farmer ‘toolkit’.

Skilled and experienced facilitators from the agriculture advisory and community development sectors are currently being recruited and trained to deliver the programme in farmer group settings in both counties.

The FarmConnect pilot programme is a European Innovation Partnership (EIP-Agri) project, funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine.

Project partners include the Men’s Development Network CLG (lead partner); Teagasc; Mental Health Ireland; University of Limerick; Carlow Institute of Technology; the Irish Co-operatives Society; farm advisors; agricultural researchers; agricultural consultants; agri-education specialists, and farmer representatives.

“A comprehensive evaluation will be undertaken as part of the programme to capture learning with a view to developing a scalable, national, capacity-building health and well-being programme for farmers throughout Ireland,” said Clare.