Farming can be the best job in the world.
However, sometimes it can also be one of the most stressful, especially at the moment with all the uncertainty relating to Brexit (if you’re a British farmer).
The long hours, financial pressure, dealing with the weather and other unforeseeable events can take its toll.
The UK press have taken hold of this message recently, with, for example, Farmers Weekly launching its #Fit2Farm campaign. On social media I’ve also been spearheading the #FarmerMentalHealth hashtag to encourage awareness.
Health is about the physical and the mental – and wellbeing is critical to both. With this in mind, I asked Liz Earle MBE a few questions relating to health and wellbeing in the farming community.
Liz is a wellbeing entrepreneur, organic farmer, TV presenter and the number-one bestselling author of over 35 books on a range of health, beauty and wellbeing topics, including her latest bestsellers The Good Menopause Guide and The Good Gut Guide.
A global brand pioneer, Liz co-founded (but is no longer connected to) the multi-award winning Liz Earle Beauty Co. before moving on to launch Liz Earle Wellbeing.
She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Liz Earle Wellbeing magazine (published internationally by Hearst), founder of Liz Earle Fair and Fine, an award-winning range of Fairtrade gold botanical jewellery, and hosts the popular Wellness with Liz Earle weekly podcast.
She is a founding farmer for Pasture For Life and lives on her farm in the West Country.
Liz, lots of people will have declared new-year’s resolutions recently connected to their health and wellbeing. If there is one thing that you would encourage people to do to improve their wellbeing what would it be and why?
Focus on your gut health! By making one small change to your diet and adding a daily dose of probiotics – in the form of plain live yoghurt or fermented foods such as kefir and pickled vegetables – you can make a real difference to your overall health and wellbeing.
What I love about gut health is that you don’t have to give anything up, but through some small changes can easily add a bit of goodness into your daily life.
Where did your passion for health and wellbeing come from?
I was inspired as a child by my father, a gardening aficionado who taught me how to grow seasonal fruit and veg that are good to eat, as well as therapeutic plants good for our skin and bodies.
I love that so much of the good stuff comes out of the earth around us, which is why I am passionate about healthy soil and regenerative farming practices that put back, not strip out.
You live on a grass-fed, organic farm in the West Country. Tell me about the farm? How long have you been there and what do you produce?
We’ve lived on the farm for over 10 years now, originally converting a derelict dairy farm into a certified livestock organic farm (no-dairy), then moving on to the Pasture For Life principles of low/no-input and grass-fed grazing.
We still operate under these founding principles and currently our main activities are producing pastured, organic eggs (we supply our local community shops with these), mostly from Marian’s hens, as well as organic and Pasture For Life hay and silage production.
Why is it important that we openly discuss health and wellbeing within the farming community?
Farmers’ physical and mental health and wellbeing are often pushed to one side as the important tasks of managing a busy arable or livestock farm take over.
That’s why it’s so important to discuss health and wellbeing in the farming community and to support farmers in keeping fit and healthy, as well as finding ways to combat rural isolation and stress.
I recently became an ambassador for The Prince’s Countryside Fund and am so impressed by their commitment to rural health and wellbeing amongst the farming community.
It’s so important that those who look after the nation’s wellbeing by producing great quality, nutritious food are well looked after themselves.
Why do you think some farmers struggle with their health and wellbeing?
I think one of the main factors is that working in a rural community can be very isolating and lonely.
It’s really important to make time to socialise, as meeting up with friends and colleagues is usually a reliable way to boost your mood. Fortunately, the rise in community shops and activities can help here, especially in the more remote regions.
What are some of the things that farmers can do to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Some of my top tips are:
- Eat more feel-good food: What we eat undoubtedly affects our mood – especially at lunchtime as it gives us a boost in the middle of the day.
- Make time to breath to reduce stress levels: Whenever you feel particularly stressed and tired, stop and take some long, deeper breaths – an easy, yet effective way to reduce stress levels.
- Do more of what you love after work: Give yourself something to look forward to at the end of the working day, such as returning home to do more of what makes you happy and seeing more of the people you love.
- Stay fit through exercise: Working the farm, I appreciate just how important it is to stay physically fit and strong through exercise. But it’s hard to find the time in a busy day that starts early and can end late – your body will thank you for it though and ironically you’ll find it gives you more energy overall. Don’t forget to stretch out to combat repetitive strain injuries from repeated tasks, or sitting all day in a tractor cab. Downloading a simple yoga, pilates or stretch app on your phone is a cheap and simple way to redress the body balance.
You are an advocate for the Soil Association and an ambassador for the Sustainable Food Trust. Why are these organisations important to you?
As a working farmer, I’m delighted to be an advocate for both the Soil Association and The Sustainable Food Trust.
The work these organisations do in championing healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use is incredibly important.
These conversations are increasing outside of farming and it’s important we get the most accurate information across about the high standard of British food to engage the public and encourage support.
I’m also an active ambassador for Love British Food, for this reason as well.
Tell me more about Liz Earle Wellbeing, the magazine which you founded and of which you are editor-in-chief?
The magazine is built on over 30 years of my personal experience and research, and is packed with tried and trusted recipes and inspirational ideas and ways to bring out the very best in each and every one of our readers.
We have a highly engaged readership and one of the features I most enjoy putting together is our Meet the Farmer spot. We’ve featured so many great British food heroes here, from goat’s cheese producers to watercress farmers and beyond.
What are you most looking forward to in 2019?
I feel very fortunate to do what I love everyday. So I’m just hoping to be doing more of the same – and to being able to spread my network even more widely to inform and inspire many more readers.
I started podcasting not long ago and I love recording my Wellness with Liz Earle podcast series, so I’m looking forward to more of these too.