– Using drama in a new and innovative way to encourage cultural change around farmer health, wellbeing and farm safety
Safe Farm recently launched its farm health, safety, and wellbeing European Innovation Project in County Cork. The project was officially launched by Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Martin Heydon.
Safe Farm is an EIP project which aims to stimulate and foster cultural and behavioural change at farm level using drama as an innovative approach to the delivery of a bespoke farm health, safety, and wellbeing training programme for farmers.
A bottom-up, farmer-led approach is being used to design and develop the training based on an extensive needs analysis conducted with Dairygold Co-op farmers last spring.
Joe Kirk, Acorn Agricultural Research said that ‘as this project is farmer led, it should increase the chances of farmer buy in which will hopefully improve the culture around farmer health, wellbeing and farm safety.’
83% of farmers involved in the needs analysis had made positive health and safety changes on their farm, however, these changes were only made after an incident occurred. Thus, the challenge is encouraging farmers to make changes before an incident occurs.
The needs analysis also found that farmers are aware of farm safety hazards and risks, thinking about safety on a daily basis. However, time management is a challenge facing farmers in terms of implementing safety measures. A high proportion of farmers feel overwhelmed with work and are constantly chasing their tail, while many farmers have concerns for their own and other farmers’ wellbeing given the nature of farming which involves working long hours often in isolation.
Subsequently, Safe Farm have developed a new and innovative health, safety, and wellbeing training programme for farmers. This programme uses drama to emotionally capture the farmer audience in bringing real situations to life. Facilitation is at the heart of this approach to provoke discussion and engage participants during the training. The purpose of this training approach is to challenge thinking and cultural behaviours in an effort to create an opportunity for dialogue on key issues and themes within farm health, safety and wellbeing.
Acorn Agricultural Research in partnership with UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, Dairygold Co-op, Cohort Recruitment and Training and farmer members are carrying out this project which is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as part of a European Innovation Partnership (EIP).
Speaking about the launch of this new programme, Billy Cronin, Head of Supply Chain at Dairygold said: “We are delighted that this Safe Farm EIP is a farmer led programme because initiatives such as this need to be informed by those people most affected by them. It was important for Dairygold that this Safe Farm initiative would not only highlight farm safety but also include a focus on mental wellbeing while also being scalable.
“We need to be constantly aware of the challenges facing farmers who are working on their own and I would urge all farmers to always ask themselves am I doing a dangerous, difficult or different task today to ensure everyone goes home safely to their families each evening.”
Dr. Sinéad Flannery, Assistant Professor in Behavioural Science in Agriculture at the School of Agricultural and Food Science, UCD said: ‘We are delighted to be partnering on this important project. The agri-food sector is one of the most dangerous sectors to work in here in Ireland but many of the accidents, injuries, and fatalities happening on farms are avoidable.
“In general, farmers are aware of the risks on their farms, but a cultural shift in mindset, attitude, and behaviour at farm level is required to increase safety. We hope this exciting new innovative project will support farmers in making this change.’