Looking out at the barley being harvested a few weeks ago, I was struck by how comforting this felt as a sign of life around us returning to a more normal tempo. Whilst I am hopeful that we are turning a corner with this dreadful pandemic, the reality is that life in farming will continue to include complex and diverse challenges that impact not only how people farm, but also their physical and mental wellbeing.
Where is RABI heading?
Since writing my last column, RABI has continued its journey of evolution following the direction the Trustees set out in our 2019 five-year plan, to evolve and extend the charity’s service and support networks, and to provide an even greater breadth of support to even more farming people.
Each of RABI’s four strategic aims articulated in the strategy therefore remain vitally important today, and I’m pleased to be able to provide an update on the positive progress that’s occurred so far.
I’ve previously shared details of the incredible response to The Big Farming Survey. Our research partners are close to delivering their analysis and the findings will be launched to the sector at an exclusive event on 14 October. Delegates have been invited to explore the primary challenges identified and contribute to the discussions on the major impacts affecting farmer wellbeing, as well as scoping out priority areas that require focused support in future.
This extensive research project is a significant step towards providing an evidence library that will inform the sectors’ understanding of how life’s challenges affect those who farm. It is a truly ground-breaking piece of work in the breadth of its scope, and I look forward to reporting in more detail on the findings later in the year.
How do RABI reach farming people?
At a grassroots level, RABI continues to increase awareness of our work and support programmes within the farming community and with peer organisations and colleagues across the sector. Developing our communications and outreach into the farming community is essential to help remove some of the stigmas surrounding accessing support. We are working hard with our partners to try to ensure that messages to encourage farming people to come forwards, and wider conversations to normalise accessing services and support, reach the right people.
As we’ve all experienced, COVID-19 has significantly affected how we interact with each other. Yet I’m delighted to say that it’s been wonderful to finally be able to start participating in events again, with RABI attending both Cereals and the Great Yorkshire Show.
Re-establishing connections with volunteers and supporters has been hugely rewarding. It’s also encouraging that many organisations made time to visit our stand and initiate important conversations about working collaboratively in future. This not only demonstrates that our strategy is resonating and bringing about positive collaborations, but also highlights the value of face-to-face meetings.
I hope that the easing of restrictions will allow me to meet many more of you over the coming months.
What’s been going on behind the scenes at RABI?
Work has continued during the pandemic to focus on the good governance that has to occur behind the scenes of the charity. The regulatory bodies that oversee the charity sector require high standards and the charity has been developing and implementing a range of improvements across our activities: from our operational systems, to how RABI volunteers implement best practice.
Looking forward, as details of future farming policies continue to emerge, I have no doubt that farming people will continue to face evolving challenges that impact their businesses and physical and mental wellbeing. RABI is absolutely committed to continuing to fulfil our duty to our community by adapting and progressing accordingly. The fundamental goal of delivering a toolkit of services that’s consistently available to farming people across England and Wales that evolve as needed underpins everything the charity does.
As stated by the Trustees in RABI’s strategy, ‘dealing with life’s challenges can be tough’ but we will continue to stand with our farming community, to help empower them and build resilience to get through difficult times.
For further details, RABI’s strategy ‘The Foundations for Change’ can be found on our website – rabi.org.uk.
Thank you for your continued support.
Alicia Chivers, chief executive
First published in the East Anglian Daily Times on 10/08/2021