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New project aims to record true-life stories of rural Swansea

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A new project aimed at creating an oral history of the lives, and mental health experiences of those working on the land has been launched in Swansea.

The Mental Health and Oral Histories project aims to raise awareness of existing support for the agricultural sector and land-based workers in rural Swansea and new resources.

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The project’s been put together by Swansea Rural Development Partnership Local Area Group (LAG). Along with farming support, partners want to strengthen and support agricultural communities and create a resilient rural Swansea and increase health and wellbeing.

Membership of the LAG has been widened to include more agricultural representation and this has provided a clearer understanding of the needs and challenges faced by of our farming communities in Swansea.

The project will provide the opportunity for farmers and agricultural workers to talk about the heritage of farming in rural Swansea, about the successes and the difficulties experienced, which will be captured for future generations to learn from.

The commission will also voice a message that mental health issues can affect anyone, but it will also highlight existing support, which is available to be accessed locally. Resources will signpost people to useful information and services, and offer opportunities to connect with peers and start conversations.

Andrew Stevens, the council’s cabinet member for business improvement and performance, said: “Being a farmer can come with many struggles that can have an impact on your mental mental health.

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“That can include working long hours often in isolation or financial worries. Due to the nature of food production, you are completely tied to your work and at the mercy of the weather.

“Most rural workers live where they work, and this makes it all more the difficult to separate work and personal life.”

Cllr Stevens said: “Farmers can be viewed as very tough, hardworking, and strong characters and this perception is what makes it even more difficult to tackle mental health.

“Hopefully, the project will help showcase farming and rural life in Swansea and Gower and show just how important it is to our economy and history. But more importantly it can shine a spotlight on what services are available to help, hopefully help break down some barriers and raise awareness on mental health.”

Rachael Aka, member of the Local Action Group and Farming Community Regional Support Officer for Wales said: “The demanding and often volatile work involved in the farming and agricultural sector not only takes a physical toil on those working in the field, but it can also place immense strain on some farmers’ and land-based worker’s mental health.

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“It is hoped that the commission will normalise discussions around the subject, highlight that poor mental health is sadly not unusual nor something to be ashamed of and will support farmers and land-based workers who may be quietly struggling.”

The commission will deliver three elements:

The project has been supported by a number of organisations including the Farming Community Network, The DPJ Foundation, Public Health Wales, Bangor University and RABI.

The oral history project ‘Stories of a Changing Landscape, a Farmer’s Perspective’ will offer a space for Swansea-based rural workers to discuss their farming history, the changing landscape of their family farm and highlight the struggles and successes, mental health concerns and what the future will bring. This will be captured in an exhibition, which will be made available across different digital platforms and in physical exhibition spaces.

A local and sector specific directory offering contact detail of organisations, which offer support with respect to mental health concerns, and other aspects such as legal advice and family support will be produced and distributed.

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The exhibition events will showcase ‘Stories of a Changing Landscape, a Farmers Perspective which will bring together Swansea’s communities to celebrate farming heritage, address mental health issues and provide information for support organisations.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Farming

Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society launches 2022 Student Bursary Award

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Would you like some extra financial support to assist with your chosen college or career path? Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society’s Student Bursary Award is now open for applications.

The £1,000 bursary is open to all qualifying students studying agriculture, veterinary science, agricultural engineering, food technology, forestry or other subjects clearly allied to agriculture. 

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The bursary is tax free and will be awarded to the student who, in the opinion of a panel of judges, has submitted the best dissertation on how the bursary will assist them to complete their course of study.

The last winner of the award was 21-year-old Gracie Morris, of St. Davids. A former pupil of Ysgol Croesgoch and Ysgol Dewi Sant, Gracie was in her fourth and final year at Harper Adams University studying BSc agriculture with crop management at the time of winning the award.

Gracie said, “It was an honour and a privilege to have been awarded the Pembrokeshire County Show student bursary award in 2019. The bursary enabled me to undertake research towards my final year dissertation on biofumigation to control Rhizoctonia solani in potatoes.”

“The bursary allowed me to be financially secure during my last year of studies. Most of my spare time was spent researching for my dissertation so having a part-time job alongside university was not not possible for me.”

Gracie recommends qualifying students apply for the award.  She said, “I would urge all Pembrokeshire students who study subjects that are clearly aligned to agriculture to apply for this bursary as it won’t only assist with your studies but will also give you great experiences such as undertaking an interview which is a key employment skill. It will also assist in your future career within the agriculture industry.”

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Qualifying students must not have won the student bursary on a previous occasion, the applicant must be studying or has been accepted to study agriculture or allied subjects at a UK college or university at A-Level or higher and the applicants’ family home must be in Pembrokeshire.

Rob James, Chairman of the Society’s Bursary Committee said, “A panel of independent judges, chaired by a representative of the society, will draw up a short list of candidates who will be interviewed and the winning candidate will be asked to give a short presentation at a future meeting of the society’s show council.

“The standard of applications has always been exceptional which gives a lot of heart that there are a lot of very talented young people in our community. We are very much looking forward to receiving applications for this year’s bursary and hearing from the younger generation.”

To enter, students must submit a dissertation of 1,000 words entitled ‘How the bursary will assist my career progression.’

Further details and the entry form can be found on the website: www.pembsshow.org or by calling the show office: 01437 764331. The closing date for applications is Friday, 1 July 2022.

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Tractor queues could lead to penalty points

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A warning for farmers this Easter Bank holiday weekend as police will be on the look-out for long queues disrupting the holiday traffic.

Leading farm vehicle insurance firmQuotezone.co.uk, which compares insurance quotes for farmers, says police forces will be especially aware of the Highway Code’s Rule 169 this weekend, as record crowds could be headed for their country road trip.

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Rule 169 says road users must not create or hold up a long queue of traffic; the rule pays special attention to those driving a large or slow-moving vehicle – potentially making tractor drivers high on the list to gain police attention.

Greg Wilson, Founder of Quotezone.co.uk, says holding up more than six cars could risk 3-9 points on a driving licence, and a fine of up to £5,000.

He comments: “Traffic jams could be more numerous and longer as holidaymakers avoid foreign trips due to the chaos and cancellation at airports and ports – with the addition of mass rail engineering works ruling out alternative transport closer to home.”

If tractor drivers find they are creating queues, the Highway Code and police forces advise that they pull over, where safe, and allow traffic to overtake, as frustration can lead to dangerous manoeuvres to try and bypass farm vehicles.

The police will also be looking at motorists with caravans, trailers and horse boxes who will need to be conscious of how their driving is affecting other road users. Sensible measures such as checking mirrors, and showing reasonable consideration for other road users should avoid prosecutions.

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Greg Wilson continues: “Farmers are incredibly busy and it’s not always possible to pull over but it’s really important to be as safe as possible on the roads and also safeguard finances. 

“Penalty points could see insurance premiums increase by as much as 25% for 6 points – given tractor insurance can be rather expensive, it isn’t worth the financial risk or potentially losing a driving licence if the new penalties push total points to more than 12.”  

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Farming union hits out over Welsh and UK Government’s lack of engagement on Ukraine supply chain crisis

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The Farmers’ Union of Wales has, for a second time, written to the Welsh Government urging them to instigate actions within their control to alleviate some of the pressures of the Ukraine war on Welsh farmers and consumers.

In response to the initial letter sent to the Welsh Government on 4th March 2022, in which the Union requested a roundtable meeting with them and other stakeholders to discuss such issues and possible actions, the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd stated that the Welsh Government did not believe such a meeting was appropriate.

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FUW President, Glyn Roberts
(Image: FUW)

In his letter of reply, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “We are acutely concerned at the failure of both the Welsh and UK Governments to engage with the supply chain early on in order to explore immediate actions that will help mitigate problems that are having an impact now, and will continue to do so for the remainder of the year and at least into 2023.

“Such impacts are affecting and will continue to affect not only farmers, but also consumers, and this is therefore an issue not only for the food and farming industry but also for the Welsh and UK population as a whole.”

Mr Roberts also highlighted the need for the UK Agriculture Market Monitoring Group on which the Welsh Government sits to take a more proactive approach and share information in a more timely manner, stating:

“It is worth noting that the last set of minutes published on the UK Government website relates to a meeting held on 8th February 2022, many weeks before Russia’s attack on Ukraine.”

“I know you will be aware of the impacts being reported across the supply chain, whether in terms of cooking oil, fuel, feed or fertiliser, and predicted shortages, for example of eggs, and we fully appreciate that with regard to many of these there is little if anything that the Welsh Government can do,” wrote Mr Roberts.

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“However, there certainly are actions that can be instigated by the Welsh Government to alleviate some pressures for Welsh farmers which will benefit consumers over the coming months and years, and while these may be limited we believe it is incumbent upon the Welsh Government to act now in order to do what it can to assist farmers, food producers and consumers,” he added.

(Lead image: FUW)

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