Innovative new Pilot Programme in Waterford and Roscommon

Focused on Health and Wellbeing among members of the farming community

What is FARMConnect?

The FARMConnect programme is principally designed to address the impact that agriculture as a career – and way of life – can have on the Health and Wellbeing of Irish farmers and their families.

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.

Main Aims

  • Reduce isolation for farmers, advisors and families that engage in the programme.

  • Create a community of practice of skilled facilitators who will use the Developmental Model in working with farmers and their families.

  • Increase awareness of community networks and organisations along with specialised and medical/therapeutic supports available.

  • Increase accessibility of those supports and increase the willingness of farmers to access them.

  • Improve self-awareness so that farmers can identify those behaviours that need to change and to enable a mindset shift around identity.

  • Increase physical activity & fitness levels and improve nutrition.

  • Increase health checks and improve knowledge of the early warning signs so as to be alert to the signs in oneself and in others.

  • Create awareness and improve the use of precautionary measures around key health risks that farmers experience as disproportionate.

  • Create awareness of the dangers and consequences of farm accidents.

  • Improve safety precautions and measures for farmers to take to prevent accidents.

  • Create a safe space for farmers to share vulnerabilities about the pressures they are facing and to discuss them and seek help.

  • Enable farmers to have peer-to-peer conversations about their farming reality and seek assistance from their own farmer network as well as from support services in relation to mental wellbeing; both in-person and online.

  • Develop farmer action groups underpinned by the principles of Meitheal to build community and support between groups of farmers.

  • Build continuity and sustainability within this project through the Meitheal approach to joint projects and release a community spirit to help farmers who may need it.

  • Improve digital skills, so every farmer can access and use a suite of selected and curated apps for communication and consultation around health, safety, wellbeing, stress, and improving productivity, time and budget management.

  • Improve access to specific wellbeing services required by farmers and their families.