In January 2021, RABI launched the largest ever research project relating to the wellbeing of farming people – the Big Farming Survey. This wide-ranging survey considered for the first time the relationship between the physical and mental health of farming people and the health of farm businesses.
With very little existing evidence to provide insights into the challenges that a generation of farming people face, RABI commissioned Professor Matt Lobley and Dr Rebecca Wheeler from the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter, to lead this exciting research project. Following unprecedented support to promote the survey from stakeholders across agriculture, responses from over 15,000 farming people now provide, for the first time, a true reflection of the pressures and impacts they are facing, from a personal and business perspective.
Farming people have been provided with the opportunity to be heard and the findings below begin to tell the story of the realities of farming life in the 2020s. Whilst these findings will surprise few who work in and around agriculture, they should be a concern to all. The poor experiences described in the findings report cannot and must not continue. RABI are committed to using this unique opportunity to work with our partners, to understand how we can better work together and develop services, tools and support, to empower farming people to overcome challenges, and increase farmer resilience now and into the future.
RABI have drawn five key themes from the research. These are:
- Low levels of mental health and wellbeing - 36% of the farming community are probably or possibly depressed
- Concerning mental health and wellbeing picture amongst women in agriculture - over one-half of women (58%) experience mild, moderate or severe anxiety
- Multiple causes of stress amongst the farming community - an average of six factors cause stress. The most commonly reported sources of stress are; regulation, compliance and inspection, Covid-19, bad/unpredictable weather, loss of subsides/future trade deals
- High levels of physical health issues impacting across the farming community - over half (52%) experience pain and discomfort, one in four have mobility problems and 21% have problems in undertaking usual tasks due to health issues
- Optimism for the future of farming businesses - 59% of respondents believe their farming business is viable over the next five years
Farming people want to be heard and listened to, help them shape their future.
RABI received more responses to the survey than anyone anticipated. The charity knows that farming people want to be heard, listened to and part of the solution to the challenges raised in the report. RABI will continue to work with our community to identify priorities, develop solutions, design services and establish workable and practical options and tools that support farming people to move forwards positively.
As a community, the charity will act now and hopes many more will join it in working out the next steps that are needed to help create better futures for farming people.
To find out how you can get involved in shaping farming support services please email email@example.com