A charity dedicated to helping people in rural communities deal with mental health issues has been praised by a young woman who knows all about the challenges of running a farm.
Ffion Hooson was only 18 when her dad, Huw, suffered a stroke and she had to take over the day to day running of the family farm near Denbigh – and she admits the pressure almost proved too much for her.
One of the things that helped her get through some dark days were social media messages posted by the charity The DPJ Foundation, set up in 2016 by the family of young Pembrokeshire agricultural contractor Daniel Picton-Jones, a father of two, who took his own life after struggling with depression.
The charity has now helped over 650 people across rural Wales and has been backed by one the country’s best-known brands, Edwards the Welsh Butcher, based in Conwy.
They donated the proceeds from their stand at the Royal Welsh Show, over £1300, to The DPJ Foundation and company chairman and founder Ieuan Edwards has paid a warm tribute to 22-year-old Ffion.
She took over the family’s 180 acres at Segrwyd Isa in the hope that her dad would be able to return and she was grateful to DPJ for reaching out to her when she posted a Tweet saying how difficult she was finding it.
She said: “They’re a brilliant charity and have done so much for farmers and helped people to speak out when they were suffering by themselves.
“They’ve made it OK to ask for help and I’ve followed their Twitter feed and found that very helpful.
“I tweeted myself once back in 2019 about how difficult I was finding it because I was under a lot of pressure when I had to take over and the first couple of years were very tough.
“DPJ came back to me on Twitter with a message of support and that was helpful, just knowing they were there to talk to if I needed them.”
Ieuan Edwards, of Edwards the Welsh Butcher, is from a Conwy Valley farming family himself and understands the pressures and the loneliness faced by those working in agriculture.
He said: “Many people probably think that being a farmer and working in a beautiful natural environment is a lovely life and it can be, but it can also be pressurised and lonely.
“There are few safety nets if things go wrong which is why the work being done by the DPJ Foundation in offering support to people in the countryside is so important.
“Ffion has really stepped up and shown real courage in taking over the farm and finding a way forward and the way she has been helped by DPJ is an example of how vital their help can be.
“Without farmers like her a business like ours would not have the high-quality produce that is integral to what we do and that’s why we are proud to support DPJ in the vital assistance they offer.”
Ffion is now in a better place herself and has reconciled herself to the fact that her dad won’t be well enough to take over again but thanks to the support of her neighbours she is in a much better place.
She said: “Without Dad alongside me it was the loneliness that affected me most and not being able to do the things as well as he would have done.
“I didn’t have the experience of running the farm or being able to make the right decisions It was all a big responsibility and you never learn to fully cope.”
Ffion has now gone into partnership with a neighbouring farm and reduced the number of sheep she has to a small flock of 30 while maintaining a herd of 100 beef cattle.
She said: “I was finding it almost impossible to run the farm on my own but our neighbours have been very supportive.
“It’s a case of helping each other out. It’s good to have neighbours and friends who are willing to do anything for you.
“Now over winter they keep their beef cattle in my sheds and I look after them and in summer they help maintain the land and it has meant a lot of the weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”
Elen Williams, of The DPJ Foundation, said: “The DPJ Foundation is extremely grateful for the backing from Edwards the Welsh Butcher as they help us to further raise awareness of the support we provide for those that need it in Welsh agriculture.
“As well as our Mental Health Awareness training and our confidential Share the Load counselling and helpline service, we also post a daily picture on our social media channels which we hope will show that there is always help available and that even though farming can be isolated and lonely, you are never alone.
“It is so rewarding to hear Ffion speak about how our posts have helped her when she needed it and it is great to see that Ffion has found a way forward and is now helping others by sharing her story.
“We are looking forward to working with Edwards during Agriculture Mental Health week this month, reminding people of the help that is available. Thank you so much to Ieuan and all the team at Edwards for their backing.”
Ieuan Edwards began his business in 1983 on Conwy High Street, where the firm still has a shop in addition to their production headquarters just outside the town.
Since 2004 their products have been stocked by all the major supermarkets in Wales and increasingly into England as well while the original butcher’s shop was crowned Best Butchers Shop in the UK in 2014 and has since three times been crowned Best Butchers Shop in Wales.
For more on Edwards the Welsh Butcher go to https://www.weareedwards.co.uk
To talk to The DPJ Foundation call or text the 24-hour helpline to talk to a volunteer who can be there to listen or can set you up with a counsellor. The Share The Load contact details are – call 08005874262 or text on 07984169652.