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ON FEIRM GROUND 2

‘On Feirm Ground 2’ Programme to support farmer health and wellbeing

Farmers in Ireland face a large number of work-related challenges that can contribute to poor mental health outcomes. Nevertheless, programmes to support farmers’ health and wellbeing are faced with a range of difficulties, with farmers often described as “hard to reach”. To overcome these barriers to engagement, it has been recommended that farmers’ health programmes dovetail with ‘resources’ already available to farmers, as well as being appropriate to their occupational and socio-cultural context.

Previous research identified that whilst agricultural professionals and service providers are, generally, open to supporting farmer wellbeing, they feel ill-equipped in their capacity to support farmers in this regard and, consequently, have expressed a need for education and training to engage farmers on health issues. As a result, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Department of Health and the HSE have come together to co-fund the free On Feirm Ground programme which will provide training to agricultural professionals and service providers who work with farmers.

About On Feirm Ground 2

On Feirm Ground 2 Training Programme is a bespoke farmers’ health training programme that equips frontline agricultural professionals and service providers with the knowledge, skills, and competencies to engage and signpost farmers on health and wellbeing.

On Feirm Ground 2 is a follow on from the success of the first phase of On Feirm Ground (Conducted between September 2021 to April 2022) which targeted agricultural advisors. The evaluation of the first On Feirm Ground identified that the programme significantly increased participants’ knowledge around mental health, capacity to support and identity poor wellbeing, and willingness to signpost and promote farmers’ health to others. Consequently, the executive summary and final evaluation report recommended extending the reach of the programme to other relevant areas within the agricultural sector to increase the landscape of support for farmers’ health in Ireland. 

This is what On Feirm Ground 2 is doing. It expands the reach of the programme to agricultural professionals and service providers, meaning anyone who deals with farmers in the yard, on the phone or in the office.

On Feirm Ground 2 is delivered in a hybrid model, meaning that it combines eLearning and in-person training in its implementation. The E-Learning programme takes approximately 2 hours and will be followed by a 6-hour in-person workshop which will be delivered by the Engage National Men’s Health facilitators.

What is in it for participants?

On Feirm Ground 2 will be valuable to agricultural professionals and service providers in providing support and training that will help the participants:

  • To create a welcoming, inclusive, and safe working environment when engaging with farmers on health issues. 
  • Understand the rationale for having a specific focus on farmer’s health and the unique challenges and stresses associated with different demographic groups of farmers.
  • Explain how farming identity and farming masculinities influence the values and attitudes that farmers develop in relation to their health and, in turn, shape farmers’ health behaviours and health outcomes.
  • Identify practical tips to recognize signs of distress in farmers and to support farmers’ mental health, and signpost to appropriate services.

Pictured at the launch of the new On Feirm Ground 2 programme at the national ploughing championships 2023 (L-R) Martin Heydon Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Seán Cooke CEO of the Men’s Development Network, Fergal Fox from HSE Health and Wellbeing and the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach and at the Department of Health Hildegarde Naughton at the launch of OFG2.

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The Need:

“Farmers can’t really afford to get sick, and if they do, they probably won’t say anything unless they neglect it for so long it gets really bad. So farmers kind of plod on regardless, really and they are nearly afraid to go to the doctor sometimes.”

Ag advisors answer to the need:

‘There is more to this than just paperwork. In terms of we have a little bit more to offer the rural community than just filling up a form and telling them how many hectares are in that field and all that. That our interaction with that farming body has a value beyond numbers.

How this can help:

‘You know we might not be able to sort them out, but we might be able to recognise signs and symptoms and direct them somewhere.

“it is very insightful and empowering, even to oneself”

“it raises awareness of issues that have not been to the fore in the past”

“I thought the On Feirm Ground was very good, I am much aware of how to spot the signs of someone in distress and comfortable enough in opening a conversation with most of my clients”.