Opinion

Farming doesn’t have to be the loneliest profession in the world

I have loved farming all my life. But being a man of a certain age, I also know what it’s like to be lonely and have the ‘worries of the world’ on my shoulders.

I found my teenage years very difficult, leading me to take a year out of university because of stress-related issues.

And, in truth, it didn’t get much better for quite a period after that. Marriage brought with it the pressure of having to cope with the challenge of children not being well at times and the ever-present worry of having to pay bills.

Trying to do one’s best for parents as they got older was another challenge and then came the pain of losing them both.

Now I am not saying that none of us should expect get through life without having problems to bear. In my case, a lot of my worries were wrapped up in having a very low opinion of myself and lacking self-confidence. And I know I’m not alone in having these experiences.

Hindsight

Looking back on it all, I am fully aware that my fears and worries could have been conquered a lot earlier in life, had I taken the opportunity of talking to someone – anyone – about them. But like most other men, I kept it all inside, fearing that any attempt to discuss issues that were concerning me would make me look weak.

I suppose it’s the old ‘hunter gatherer’ thing. Men are supposed to be the breadwinners and they cannot be seen to be frail, weak or ‘human’ in any way.

In my case I know what it is like for a simple concern to get blown up out of all proportion and then thinking the very worst thereafter. It took me at least four decades to work out that there is no fear, problem or anxiety that has not been faced by other people.

In contrast, all of my sisters could always talk about anything, no matter how intimate, whether among themselves or to my mother or with friends. This is an inherent ‘escape valve’ which many women have when it comes to dealing with stress. Men could learn a lot from this approach.

So what has all this got to do with farming? I also know from experience that modern farming can be a very lonely profession. One man today can do the work required of 20 men a few short decades ago.

Solitude

Modern agriculture is also riven with challenges. The weather was always there, but given the ultra-thin margins that most farming businesses find themselves working on today, it wouldn’t take much to go wrong for the whole house of cards to come falling down. Add in family issues that can impact on everyone and it’ easy to see why farmers are very exposed to stress-related problems.

But above all else, having no one to talk to for large periods of the day can easily allow farmers to exacerbate problems in their minds. My advice to every farmer reading this, and who is under stress, is very simple: get help now.

As far as I’m concerned, this means talking to someone who can listen and take on board what is happening in your life. If this person is not your partner, then it could be a friend or someone whose opinions you value and trust.

There are also lots of professional organisations, whose staff can give you the help and support that you need. You are – we are – never alone.

I am old enough to know that a trouble shared is, indeed, a trouble halved. There is no problem that cannot be solved… with a little support and guidance. No individual person, I don’t care how brilliant he or she is, can do it all alone.

The good news is that the world is full of people who are only too ready to help and support people at a time of need. My problem was that it took too many years to find this out!