Our love letter to Lincolnshire pays tribute to struggling farming families
We're raising the profile of the county's unsung heroes working tirelessly to feed the nation during coronavirus
We're using poetry and film to highlight the vital role of Lincolnshire’s farmers, whilst raising awareness of a charity that offers support to the county’s rural community.
The film coincides with National Mental Health Awareness Week, with sector experts concerned how higher than average suicide rates within the farming community may be exacerbated by current issues. One farmer a week in the UK commits suicide.
It is also released a day after the #PickforBritain campaign was launched by Prince Charles to encourage people, including furloughed workers, to help pick fruit to keep the nation nourished.
Supporting cast of people and animals
Stars of the new video are not only the professionals here – but the animals many of them own, including Cedric the chicken, horses Annie, Woody and Stan, and alpacas and dogs.
With solicitors filming themselves in countryside settings, the poem, called ‘The Voice of our County’ opens with the line, ‘We live and work under wide Lincolnshire skies where Lancasters were counted out, counted in’.
All self-filmed near their lockdown homes the colleagues from Wilkin Chapman, which has a deep-rooted connection to Lincolnshire’s rural landscape, recite lines reflecting farmers’ dedication and their unstinting efforts to feed a nation.
‘Here’s to you’, they say of the farmers: ‘you are the day’s first light and the night’s last wink…and every hour in-between’.
‘The veg box of the nation, whose heart pumps just above sea level, her arteries and veins carved by generations’, they say of the county, as they mention some of Lincolnshire’s rural towns and organisations, which are integral to its agricultural past, present and future.
Renewed spotlight for poet and charity
The poem was penned by Grimsby poet Carolyn Doyley, who was commissioned by Wilkin Chapman’s Head of Agriculture, Catherine Harris. Catherine, who is from a farming background, read it out to great applause at the 2019 Lincolnshire Agricultural Society dinner. Held at the Epic Centre, the dinner raises money for various charities, including the Lincolnshire Rural Support Network, (LRSN).
Solicitors turn filmmakers
Wanting to make more use of the poem to champion the work of the LRSN, Catherine rallied the Wilkin Chapman troops when COVID-19 struck, and the lockdown forced home working.
As amateurs when it comes to both reciting poetry and filming, a whole host of new ‘video stars’ shot their own footage – with some selected to read lines that reflect their professional specialisms.
“The idea was to have some fun, to engage and unite colleagues who are spread across the Lincolnshire and Humber regions – but, most importantly, to remind people of the importance of the county in ‘feeding a nation’ and how the Lincolnshire Rural Support Network is helping rural residents, especially at this time,” explained Catherine.
Farming families need support
For the team at LRSN, it is hoped the video can raise its profile – and funds – at this vital time. The charity has seen a 10 per cent rise in calls for support and advice in the first quarter of this year, when compared to last with the following noted:
- In the year ending 31 March, LRSN supported 160 farming families, which is an increase of 10 per cent on the previous year;
- 10 of its most recent cases were Covid-19 related, with its existing caseload impacted by additional practical and emotional issues;
- Since the beginning of March, the charity has had 26 new cases, including people suffering from anxiety related mental health, bereavement and relationship issues and other practical issues relating to succession, stewardship and litigation. Separately to this the NFU has confirmed how one rural worker/farmer a week takes their own life;
- It is providing ongoing support to 11 families and businesses arising from the June 2019 and autumn/winter flood problems.
Farmers under extra strain
LRSN’s project manager, Alison Twiddy said: “Although Lincolnshire’s farmers are perhaps more used to working in isolation, the added pressures of coronavirus are having a visible affect. Supply chain issues, for example the closure of Newark Livestock Market and Spalding Horticultural Auction, staffing and vegetable harvesting problems caused by the social distancing and travel bans and the overarching feelings of anxiety and threat that the virus has brought, mean that farmers and their families are under a considerable amount of pressure.
“We are incredibly grateful to everyone at Wilkin Chapman for thinking of us and for fundraising for our charity. In common with many charities, this year will see difficult financial conditions for LRSN as we’ve been unable to hold our main fund-and awareness-raising events and our friends and supporters who would have been challenging themselves for sponsorship or holding events for us have had their plans dashed.
“Our work with Lincolnshire’s farming and rural families continues through coronavirus and beyond, but the support of the rural community is needed more than ever to enable us to get them back on track.”
Local poet "fell in love" with Lincolnshire
Meanwhile poet Carolyn Doyley is delighted the poem, her first individual commission, is being used in this way:
“Researching and writing this poem made me fall in love with Lincolnshire all over again. It also proved a real eye-opener for me, for the first time I understood that the beauty that we see in the fields is managed and worked,” said Carolyn.
“It is wonderful too, that the poem is being used to raise awareness of a charity that helps people in our countryside. The loneliness and isolation that will be felt by some is something that many of us will not think about,” she added.
You can watch the video here
Donate to help Lincolnshire's farming communities
We ask that if you watch and enjoy it then please donate £5 to the LRSN You can text ‘LINCSPOEM’ to 70085 to donate just £5, or go to www.lrsn.co.uk