The new Farmers4Safety – Managing Risk Together EIP (European Innovation Partnerships) AGRI project aims to create a shift in mindsets by having mentors work alongside farmers.

The Farmers4Safety – Managing Risk Together EIP project and project website was launched on April 11, by Minister Martin Heydon on the Murphy family farm in Kildinan, Co. Cork.

Irish Rural Link (IRL) has partnered with the BRIDE (Biodiversity Regeneration in a Dairying Environment) project, the Duncannon Blue Flag Farming and Communities Scheme, the New Futures Farming Group and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to carry out the piloted project in their catchment areas.

The six mentors in the project are: Tommy Tierney, Mary Oakley, Ned Kearney, John Murphy, Paddy O’Brien and Bernie Keane.

They have been preparing for the initiative since January.

“They have completed courses relevant to their roles and activities within the project, working to make a difference to the lives of the farming communities within Cork, Tipperary, and Wexford,” said Niamh Nolan, project officer.

Farm safety

“They will highlight the diverse ways to enhance farm safety and the importance of looking after farmers’ emotional well-being,” said Niamh.

“The mentors play a vital role in the project as they determine the success of the project and drive the project on the ground. They will visit farmers at their place of work, assist them with their farm risk assessments, safety plans, statements and action plans.

“They will also host farm-safety events and workshops, reach out to existing farm discussion groups as well as organising discussion groups and focus groups specifically for farm-safety purposes.

“Also part of the mentors’ remit will be developing a range of farm health and safety signage, creating a buddy system and managing a targeted communication plan,” Niamh said.

Farm safety

“This will include: Attendance at most agricultural shows and farmer attended events; articles in local papers and local radio interviews; scoping and demonstrating the opportunity for bulk purchasing of safety equipment regionally; and conducting attitudinal surveys to assess changes in sentiment towards farm safety, health and well-being,” the project officer explained.

“All six mentors have an abundant amount of expertise, knowledge and experience, and all come from diverse farming backgrounds..

“The main objective is to get 60+ farmers and farm families within these areas participating in the project. The pilot project will run for one year. It will then be reviewed with the hope it will be rolled out nationwide.

“The peer-to-peer mentor approach creates a co-learning environment which allows farmers and farm families to learn from each other.

“The farm mentors offer a fresh pair of eyes on a farmyard as they may notice a risk that a farmer or farm family may not notice themselves,” Niamh said.

The initiative is making farmers think about their farm, its safety measures, their own physical and emotional well-being in carrying out jobs on the farm and the safety, health and well-being of those that may visit or work on the farm, she said.

Farm safety

Seamus Boland, CEO of Irish Rural Link, said the mentors will be the eyes and ears of the project.

“Because of the mentors’ own farming backgrounds, farmers will feel more comfortable talking to them and more inclined to listen and take advice on improving the safety of their farms from a peer rather than an inspector,” Seamus said.

“Just having that human contact when they call to the farm and having a casual chat about things will also help with their emotional well-being.”

The launch was followed by a walk around the Murphy family farm. John Murphy, one of the project mentors, showcased the BRIDE project measures he has in place on his land.

Farm safety

The farm walk provided a networking opportunity as well as the chance for everyone to learn from each other on the diverse farming practices that can be carried out while also contributing to nature.