Fit For Farming (Women) foreword

Foreword by NFU president Minette Batters to the edition of Fit For Farming for women farmers.

My route into farming is probably best described as challenging.

Like many farming families we struggled to talk about succession planning and my father was far from convinced that farming was suited to women. But in the end, my family came round to the idea and I managed to convince my landlords that I could take on the farm.

Back then it still took people a while to get used to the idea of a woman farmer. Often people would deliver things to my farm and they would say: ‘Can I speak to the farmer?’. I would then say, ‘I’m the farmer.’ They would then say, ‘Well, can I speak to the boss?’ and I would reply ‘I’m the boss’.

When it comes to gender, the landscape of British farming is changing. Women make up the majority of students on many agricultural courses. More and more women are coming into the industry and making a success of it. They play a vital role in British agriculture. The NFU is working hard to ensure women have an equal opportunity to engage with the Union when they wish to. I am proud to be President of a Union that is overseeing such a long-overdue paradigm shift.

Women farmers, like their male counterparts, are not immune to the everyday challenges of farming: fluctuating market prices, animal disease, the weather, lack of fodder and rural crime to name but a few. Combine these stressors with the isolation and the pressure to make the business a success, it is not surprising that farmers, regardless of gender, are susceptible to poor mental and physical health. But women also have to deal with a variety of unique health issues and conditions, many of which can affect their duties on the farm.

It is vital that women farmers have access to information that will help them keep well and age healthily. This booklet does just that. Much like the original version of this booklet, specifically aimed at men, it is full of useful advice and guidance about how to look after your mental and physical wellbeing. This booklet also includes vital content about women’s health including pregnancy, gynaecological health and cancer.

I am very grateful to the Farming Community Network and the Men’s Health Forum for coming together to create this booklet. It has never been more important for members of the farming community to think about their own wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of their farm business. We need a vibrant, strong and energetic farming community to meet the future challenges of the industry and to continue feeding a growing world population. It is essential that we are all “fit to farm”.

Minette Batters - Beef, sheep and arable farmer in Wiltshire, Co-founder of Ladies In Beef and President of the National Farmers Union.

The Men's Health Forum is a member of the NHS England Information Standard and this new manual is fully compliant. This means it is fully-referenced, has been peer-reviewed by our team of medics led by Dr John Chisholm, the Men's Health Forum's chair of trustees, and also road-tested with farmers. You can have confidence that this is a reliable source of quality evidence-based health information.


The Men’s Health Forum need your support

It’s tough for men to ask for help but if you don’t ask when you need it, things generally only get worse. So we’re asking.

In the UK, one man in five dies before the age of 65. If we had health policies and services that better reflected the needs of the whole population, it might not be like that. But it is. Policies and services and indeed men have been like this for a long time and they don’t change overnight just because we want them to.

It’s true that the UK’s men don’t have it bad compared to some other groups. We’re not asking you to ‘feel sorry’ for men or put them first. We’re talking here about something more complicated, something that falls outside the traditional charity fund-raising model of ‘doing something for those less fortunate than ourselves’. That model raises money but it seldom changes much. We’re talking about changing the way we look at the world. There is nothing inevitable about premature male death. Services accessible to all, a population better informed. These would benefit everyone - rich and poor, young and old, male and female - and that’s what we’re campaigning for.

We’re not asking you to look at images of pity, we’re just asking you to look around at the society you live in, at the men you know and at the families with sons, fathers and grandads missing.

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