Approximately 100 Dairygold farmers engaged in a farm safety project last week in Co Cork, where they received training in the area of safety, health and wellbeing, throug the medium of live theatre.
Sinéad Flannery, assistant professor in Behavioural Science in Agriculture at UCD, who is involved in the Safe Farm project, told a Teagasc seminar on mental health and wellbeing that the response from farmers was "phenomenal".
Farmers watched four scenes, played by two different actors, of a typical day on the farm; one actor was the farmer and the other was the farmer’s daughter.
The actors interacted with each other throughout the play and referenced other family members such as a grandad and the farmer's wife.
In between each scene was a time for discussion among the farmers.
They were asked to comment on what they had witnessed from a physical safety, health and wellbeing point of view.
"They had to come up with solutions or talk about how these challenges could be addressed day-to-day on a farm.
The purpose of this project is that it is a new farmer-driven, health, safety and wellbeing training programme
"Halfway through each of the scenes, the farmer was brought to the audience and the audience was invited to speak to the farmer and tell the farmer what they would tell this person if it was a real life situation," Flannery said.
The farmers were then given time for reflection and to think about what's happening on their own farm also.
"The purpose of this project is that it is a new farmer-driven, health, safety and wellbeing training programme.
"The script was developed based on research, it was farmer-led, and they told us what they wanted.
"They started off at 6am and ran through the day until 6pm - there were lots of jobs to be done like any typical day on a farm," she said
Flannery said that the aim of the project was to move away from the traditional "chalk and talk" trend to this new space of using theatre and drama to deliver training.
It was amazing how people contributed, and even there were some farmers who said to us that people spoke who wouldn’t generally speak at events like that
"As a project team, we were really excited about the event, but also a little bit nervous in terms of how it might land with the farmers.
"They are used to going into a classroom and having someone speak to them for the day.
"It was amazing how people contributed, and even there were some farmers who said to us that people spoke who wouldn’t generally speak at events like that, that they felt they were in a safe space to do so," she said.
It also brought up emotional and real-life situations, Flannery said, where some farmers spoke about circumstances they had been through or were currently going through on their own farm.