Aston Clinton's Arla joins forces with Asda to help struggling farmers during the pandemic

Aston Clinton-based dairy cooperative Arla is joining forces with Asda to pledge practical, financial and emotional support to British farmers with a new charity partnership.

Friday, 11th December 2020, 3:16 pm
Updated Friday, 11th December 2020, 3:20 pm
Richard West

The company, which boasts the largest dairy in the world at the side of the A41 near Aston Clinton has linked up with The Farming Community Network (FCN) to give support back to farmers during challenging times, helping them to plan ahead and manage stress.

FCN’s Time to Plan initiative is focused on topical themes such as the new post-Brexit regime, succession and retirement, wellbeing and safety.

With mental health and wellbeing becoming an increasing concern across Britain this year, last month (October) FCN revealed that concerns around mental health and wellbeing are now the leading reason for calls to its support line.

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Richard West

In June, FCN ran an online survey of 160 farmers, agricultural businesses and members of the public across the UK which found a staggering 90 per cent believe the need for farming support organisations and charity services will increase over the next five years.

Concerned by these findings, Arla Farmers Milk and Asda want to ensure farmers have access to the right support by giving a financial donation which will provide practical and emotional support from FCN.

As the events of 2020 have impacted on the farming community, the financial support is made possible by the number of customers choosing to support farmers by buying Arla Farmers Milk in Asda stores.

Princes Risborough-based Arla farmer Richard West, said: “Farmers have always been a strong community, turning to each other in the first instance to talk through the industry, challenges and ideas.

"Usually this is face-to-face, but with all of the major industry meet-ups cancelled this year and social distancing meaning little or no real interaction between farms, this has been harder than usual.

"There’s a lot of conversation over social media, but it’s not quite the same. “During a year when the usual farming stresses are magnified, new factors like keeping you, your family and team well during Covid-19 and trying to prepare Brexit are simply adding to the pressure – add social distancing to that and it’s easy to feel alone.

"So many farmers are at a tipping point and feeling like just one more thing will break them. Often there’s an attitude of just getting on with it, with lots of farmers who wouldn’t reach out to someone until something major happened.

"By the time that happens it can feel like there’s no way out of the pickle you’re in. “I’ve heard of farmers who have felt things reached a point where they had no option to but to consider whether they should stop farming this year, which is certainly not easy as farming is a way of life for farmer, whom often feel pressure to succeed from previous and for future family generations.

"Reassuringly, there is support out there, you just need to know where to turn. Organisations like the Farming Community Network offer practical and emotional support for farmers who are struggling with their mental health, juggling the pressures of keeping things moving with a healthy team or worried about their business. Knowing there’s someone independent (and not as close as your next door neighbour!) you can pick up the phone to for support, advice and a bit of a hand-hold is really reassuring.

“I think Arla and ASDA are doing an excellent job when it comes to looking-after farmers, so knowing they’re working with an organisation that can make a real difference when it comes to the community’s mental health and business support is great.”

Francesca Boyce, Asda Sustainability Manager Agriculture and Resources, said: “We are extremely thankful to the great work that The Farming Community Network give to farmers and are delighted ‘Farmer’s Milk’ money will help them continue their valuable work, especially in these unsure times.”