Unit 8

On Feirm Ground

Aim of Workshop

To equip frontline agricultural advisors with the knowledge, skills and competencies to engage, support, and signpost farmers on health issues and to mainstream a health promotion focus into routine farming extension activities.


  1. Explore how to create a welcoming, inclusive and safe working
    environment when engaging with farmers on health issues.
  2. Consider the rationale for having a specific focus on farmers’ health,
    including the unique challenges and stresses associated with
    different demographic groups of farmers.
  3. Reflect on how farming identity and farming masculinities influence the
    values and attitudes that farmers develop in relation to their health and,
    in turn, shape farmers’ health behaviours and health outcomes.
  4. Offer participants the opportunity to reflect upon their own
    personal talents and shortcomings in engaging with and
    supporting farmers on health issues.
  5. Equip participants with practical tips to recognise signs of
    distress in farmers and to support farmers’ mental health.
  6. Provide participants with practical tips to engage with and signpost
    farmers who may be in distress to appropriate support services.
  7. Explore advisors’ role in normalising health conversations and
    mainstreaming a health promotion focus into routine extension
    activities, including farm discussion groups.

One Day Workshop Programme Outline


Arrival / settling in

  • Registration
  • Tea / coffee
  • Pre-training evaluation forms


  • Welcome
  • Housekeeping announcements
  • Introductions
  • Background to ‘On Feirm Ground’
  • Safety and boundaries (what this training is / is not)
  • Developing a group contract / ground rules
  • Model of working together

Why farmers’

  • Positive aspects of farming – community, crucial role of farming in Irish economy, international record, meitheal and tradition
  • Rationale and evidence base for having a specific focus on farmers’ health
  • Contemporary challenges impacting on farmers (personal and systemic)
  • Applying a social determinants of health framework to
    profile ‘at-risk’ groups of farmers



Farming identity
and farming

  • Key unwritten rules for farmers in the framing of farming identity
  • Prevailing rural and farming masculinity norms
    and their relationship with health
  • Narratives about farming masculinities and approach
    to health and help-seeking

as ‘health

  • Consideration of a ‘health connector’ role in relation to farm
    discussion groups and one-to-one situations
  • Personal strengths and weaknesses in relation to working
    with farmers, more broadly, and in relation to health, specifically
  • Roles, responsibilities and boundaries
  • Minding the minders – how are advisors minding themselves
    and how could they be supported more?



Recognising the
‘signs’ of distress
in farmers

  • Key indicators of farmers’ mental health
  • Reading ‘the signs’ of distress
  • Practical tips to support farmers’ mental health and
    wellbeing and to cope with the pressures of farming

Responding to
farmers in distress

  • Appropriate strategies to deal with distress or disclosure
  • Signposting to appropriate support services

Comfort Break


farmers’ health
within the context
of extension

  • Learning from key milestones, to date, in farmers’ health
  • Top tips on things to do to actively engage farmers
  • Potential actions, activities or events that could happen within or through farming activities, including farm discussion groups

Pulling it all

  • Synopsis of issues covered
  •  Evaluation forms
  • Signposting to sources of information, help and support
  • Final round of feedback


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I suppose doing ‘On Feirm Ground’, it helped me to see that poor health can be very common across the client base. I think it can be hard to try to help someone that is under pressure but with this training it has helped me in ways of addressing these types of situations Really it has raised awareness of what we can do to help farmers and where we can also look for help for them if they require it.

The ‘On Feirm Ground’ programme definitely made me more aware to monitor farmers well being and to encourage them to seek help.

After taking part in ‘On Feirm Ground’, when going out on the farm I feel more confident when harder and more personal subjects are bought up by the farmer. I know the right questions to ask and what signs to look for instead of not knowing what to say to try and help the situation. Having this knowledge is a great advantage as you are never worried going into a farm of not knowing what to say or not saying the correct thing and making the situation worse.

‘On Feirm Ground’ has improved my understanding of how Agricultural Advisors can more effectively engage in supportive communications with farmers

I thought the ‘On Feirm Ground’ training was very good, I am much more aware of how to spot the signs of someone in distress, and comfortable enough in opening the conversation with most of my clients. The EARS approach is very effective.

Since ‘partaking in the On Feirm Ground’ training, I have tried to be more open to talking to farmers about issues they may have physically or mentally and encourage them to get help they needed if it is not already sought.