Fighting farming loneliness - with bacon!
While the stunning countryside of the UK is famous the world over for its picturesque charm and beauty, it can hide a stark truth – that the people employed in those rolling hills and lush valleys are often under enormous pressures.
Farmers regularly spend days or even weeks working in their fields, alone and at the mercy of the unpredictable weather and fluctuating market prices.
Many face financial hardship at the best of times, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict only sharpened this issue with soaring fertiliser prices eating away at incomes already savaged by the same inflationary pressures we are all feeling.
It’s a hard, lonely life – and that helps to explain the shocking rates of depression and even suicide among agricultural workers.
To help combat this loneliness, the Borderlands Rural Chaplaincy in Shropshire set up a ‘Butty Van’ – a travelling, pop-up café which meets in farm yards or barns, and serves a hot drink and a bacon butty to local farmers who take an hour away from work and meet up to chat.
Now the small, but committed congregation at Bearwood, a tiny church set in the heart of rural Herefordshire a few miles to the west of Leominster, has decided to set up its own ‘Butty Break’ scheme – with input from, among others, Borderlands Rural Chaplain David Gwatkin, who works on his own family farm in the area.
Minister Paul Arnold said they had been inspired by the success of the Shropshire project.
‘It’s a wonderful idea,’ he said. ‘Farmers are so isolated, so to give them the opportunity to see a friendly face, and have a quick bite to eat and a hot mug of tea, can be genuinely invaluable. Farmers love a chat and a gossip, but those are hard to come by when you’re in a tractor on your own for ten or twelve hours a day. This project – under the umbrella of a caring and supportive Christian community – will help them to deal with everything from rising prices or farming issues to bereavements or the loss of a farm itself.’
The Butty Break scheme will operate on the first Tuesday of the month, with farmers invited to offer their yard or barn as a site.
The £1,500 award money will go towards buying a gas BBQ grill, other catering materials, and a small trailer to transport the equipment.
‘We didn’t think we’d win,’ said Paul, ‘so this has come as a fabulous surprise, and we’re very grateful to Methodist Insurance.’