Sunday, 16 February 2014

Sugar beet generosity, Farming blues, and a Valentine’s Day glow

The bad weather in the UK continues unabated. Storms have brought chaos and misery to many folk. There is despair and stoicism in equal measure to be heard in the experiences of those living through this unprecedented weather. I listen to the Farming Today programme every morning on my way to work. Last week there were many reports from farmers caught up in the floods and storms. It made for difficult listening at times. Men women and young people who had built up their farms now seeing their land submerged and ruined, animals with nowhere to go and no feed to eat. So it was wonderful to hear on Monday morning the serious and concerned voice of George Munns who upon hearing of the plight of the Somerset Plain farmer decided to donate 85 tonnes of sugar beet as cattle feed.

Within hours of announcing this using social media, hauliers Mick George, Roger Warne (not a known relative) and three other companies agreed to transport the sugar beet from Cambridge to Somerset free of charge. Mr Munns sugar beet was due to be sent for processing into sugar, and as such was worth around £2000. He said simply, that the Somerset farmer’s needs were greater than his.

Sugar beet will forever hold a special place in my memory. When I lived in Wales I had a small holding.  I used to run a small herd of milking goats. In the winter time, when they were all tucked up in a warm barn, they would be given sugar beet to supplement the meadow hay. Both had distinctive sweet smells. It’s a vivid memory made bitter sweet when seeing the plight of the farmers in the South of England.

Farmers as a group have always had a lot to contend with and perhaps it’s not surprising that they are a high risk occupational group for mental health problems. Internationally, the suicide rate for farmers is said to be one third higher than for the non-farming population. Loss is the biggest issue for many farmers, loss of control, animal disease, weather, and loss of crops, loss of the family farm, and loss of income. Geographical remoteness and social isolation add to these problems.

Whilst the problems are long standing and well recognised, mental illness is still a taboo subject amongst many farming communities. So it was good to read last week that the National Federation of Young Farmers launched Rual+, an initiative aimed at raising awareness of the support available for those struggling to deal with their problems. This is an international concern, and as the World Health Organisation note, there is no health without mental health.


Friday was Valentine’s Day. It was also the first showing of the ITV programme Student Nurses: Bedpans and Bandages – featuring students from our School here in Salford.  It was a fanatsic show case for our students and colleagues. The programme was shown on prime time Friday night UK television, in between two episodes of Coronation Street. In some respects it was a shame that the first episode was shown on Valentine’s Day – but in some ways it possibly was quite appropriate. It's what nursing is all about, Friday, Valentine’s Day/Christmas Day, Birthdays, these are all nursing days.