Charles Kenyon's Country Diary: For farmers, life is hard - but there is help at hand

Self-employed farmers and lone workers have to cope with many of the challenges of modern life without having access to the technology, writes our columnist

Harvest has been early this year. All is safely gathered in, or nearly so. It's not so safe for farming people working alone night and day – a thunderstorm could cost you your livelihood, a mistake with a machine perhaps your life. And there is no shelter from world food prices, where futures markets will dominate the smaller farmer's return even more than that of the big landowner. Almost all farming transactions and regulation have to be done online; rural broadband and mobile coverage is a national disgrace.

Time is the commodity in shortest supply and the victims are often family relationships. Years ago, when volunteering with the charity Families Need Fathers, I stood on a hillside with a shepherd who was calling the Child Support Agency in Belfast. Neither person could understand each other's accent or environment. He was excluded from his isolated cottage by police as his partner's children were assaulting him. It was lambing time and he was sleeping in the fold.

There are some great agricultural charities, but self-employed farmers and lone workers have to cope with modern-life challenges effectively without access to HR, decent internet or even Citizens Advice. Now a wonderful charity, the Lincolnshire Rural Support Network, with more than 30 well-qualified volunteers, walks with families through tough times, one to one; it's a lifeline to farming people suffering physical and mental stress, family breakups and hardship, all in the county that grows a quarter of the UK's food.

Charles Kenyon lives near Market Rasen. Contact him at

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