NPR - SUPPORTING FARMING FAMILIES THROUGH FCN, WITH PARTICULAR REFERENCE TO DEVON, ENGLAND
Inspired by efforts in Europe and USA to help farming families under stress, FCN the UK Farm Crisis Network (now, since 2013, Farming Community Network) was launched in 1995. Existing organisations that nurtured it were the UK Agricultural Christian Fellowship (ACF) founded in 1962, and the Arthur Rank Centre (ARC) - the Churches’ National Rural Centre, founded in 1972. Major disease crises followed establishment of FCN – BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) in 1996, Swine Fever in 1999, and Foot-and-Mouth (FMD) in 2001. FCN was registered as an independent charity and limited Company in 2001, dedicated to ‘walking with’ farming families through crises both epidemiological and individual farm-based through stress of financial meltdown under increasing pressures of markets often leading to family discord and relationship breakdown too. The Paper briefly charts early history of FCN, its relationship to other Farming Help charities, guiding principles, and modus operandi. Both reactive and proactive work is described – the former involving local groups of those ready to help, the latter involving establishment of Farmer Groups for mutual learning and encouragement among farmers, and Market Chaplaincy. Criteria for selection of helpers and for founding Farmers’ Groups are described. Some research on benefits to participants is reported for Devon County, England. Devon case-work is briefly described – without, of course, divulging any confidences. The Paper concludes with some practical recommendations and thoughts about FCN work in future. The change in name adopted in 2013 – to Farming Community Network – reflects the need for help in routine bureaucracy, succession planning and other underlying needs not just those precipitated by acute crises.
Keywords: farming; help; rural; stress; communities; networking