There has been a 70% increase in the number of NI farmers using the one-on-one mentoring service offered by Rural Support.

Gillian Reid from the Cookstown-based charity said common issues being discussed with farmers include rising interest rates, price volatility, bovine TB and concerns about a potentially long winter.

“Mentoring can follow on from farmers who call us on our helpline and also as referrals from other people on the ground, like vets and feed reps, who see a farmer is under pressure and needs help,” Reid explained.

“It is normally a bit quieter over the summer but farmers are just overwhelmed because there is so much hitting them right now,” she said.

The team at Rural Support often find that the pressures facing farmers are compounded if there has been a dispute within the family.

The mentors can offer advice about resolving fall outs and possibly restructuring the farm business to allow the family to move forward.

“Burn out is a big issue among farmers and there is also a strong feeling that they don’t feel valued in society any more,” Reid maintained.

She said there is a growing trend of younger farmers approaching Rural Support for help, whereas in the past it was more common for older farmers to reach out, especially if they have no younger family members close by.

“One of our mentors recently visited a farmer and said to him: ‘It’s okay, I’m on your side’. The farmer looked at him and said: ‘You’re the first person to come into this yard and say that’.”