Funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine under the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) Scheme targeting Farmers’ Health and Wellbeing, the initiative builds on and extends the work of several key prior initiatives undertaken by a range of organisations, programmes and partnerships.
These include but are not limited to: Engage, Fit for Farming, Farmers Have Hearts, the National Men’s Health Programme, Men on the Move, Mental Health Ireland, and Sheds for Life. Men’s Development Network has the lead coordinating role in this new undertaking.
The core objective of the FARMConnect project is to pilot – in Waterford and Roscommon, over a 12-month implementation period: January to December 2022 – the development of a scalable national programme to address farmer health and wellbeing in a sustainable, coherent manner.
A 20-week programme will be offered to 64 farmers in each of the two pilot counties. Twenty skilled and specially-trained facilitators will involve the farmers – supported by a proven ‘buddy’ referral system – in a transformational process covering four key FARM(Connect) themes: Fitness, Awareness, Resilience, and Meitheal, meaning community support.
Following an evidence-based approach, the project will use the combined principles of community development, social science and non-formal education to engage with farmers. Participants’ attitudes will be reframed through the creation of an environment that fosters Social and Emotional learning (SEL).
According to Teagasc data for 2019, approximately 40,000 farmers in Ireland do not engage with any sector-based services or advisors at all. FARMConnect, both in its pilot phase and future scaled-up form, will seek to prioritise this ‘hard to reach’ section of the farming population.
Also, though the Men’s Development Network will coordinate the project, the 15 per cent of farmers that are women will be positively included.
A highly expert and experienced Operational Group, representing a broad range of stakeholders in both the agriculture and health arenas, will oversee the pilot programme’s operation and delivery.