Communities can stop most vulnerable ‘falling through the gaps’

Kate Dale, co-ordinator of the Yorkshire Rural Support Network (pictured below), reflects on how rural communities are reacting to the coronavirus situation and how we can all play our parts in supporting one another at a testing time.

There is a strength to our farming and rural communities which has always been there when the going gets tough.

As natural problem solvers and practical folk, farming families have demonstrated their abilities, time and again, to adapt amid new challenges. The coronavirus situation is the latest test and, across the county, countryside communities are reacting admirably.

From farm shops operating as contactless drive thrus to community initiatives involving food and prescription deliveries for the most vulnerable, technology and social media has allowed groups and businesses to mobilise quickly.

Yet there are worries for people who fall through the gaps, who lack information about helpful services and who rely on personal contact from proactive neighbours. In such cases, a simple phone call to someone who maybe in need of a little extra support, just to check they are okay, can be an invaluable gesture.

Agricultural chaplains, who normally interact with farming folk at auction marts, are working hard to stay in touch with those they know are isolated. Anyone who wishes to be contacted by their local mart chaplain, or who feels they know someone who is isolated and may benefit from such contact, is encouraged to get in touch with their local mart and ask to be put in touch.

Similarly, the Farming Help Charities are on standby to listen and give guidance to anyone in the farming community. Call the confidential helpline on 03000 111 999.

The Yorkshire Rural Support Network at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society is working with those charities and other partners to promote means of support for our rural communities, and we recognise that it is not just older people who require support.

The Network has worked with a small group of rural women to set up a Yorkshire Women In Farming group on Facebook. This is a complementary extension of the support the Network offers through its established Women In Farming group that, ordinarily, holds events throughout the year, including an annual conference at the Great Yorkshire Showground each autumn.

Kate Dale, Yorkshire Rural Support NetworkWe are determined to do all we can to recognise and encourage the abilities of the many wonderfully talented and innovative women in our fabulous county, and this new online group is a private space for likeminded rural women to support each other.

Men are welcome too, with all those who request to join required to answer a short series of simple questions to ensure the group functions within its terms of reference.

Launched this month, it is particularly timely. We hope it helps all those women on farms, who often have to ‘hold it all together’ for the family and the business, to feel supported and make new friends for the future. We particularly hope it helps to better connect younger women who struggle to attend events in person and can miss out on that spirit of support.

Meanwhile, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Farm to Fork campaign is highlighting on social media the great work being done by farming families across Yorkshire. It champions how farmers are feeding the nation, and how farm retailers are adapting their services amid coronavirus.

To take part, send a photograph or short video taken on the farm or in the farm shop, plus a brief explanation of what you are doing to produce food or make it available to the public, to the Society’s Charitable Activities Manager, Ben Barnett, via

Read more: Farm To Fork campaign champions role of farmers to feed the nation

Read more: What I learnt from NFU Conference – Future Farmer Jessica Mackintosh

This article first appeared in The Yorkshire Post on 2nd April 2020.

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