A RURAL insurance expert is calling on Craven residents to step up their support for farmers, amid growing concerns over their mental health.

Harry Appleton-Metcalfe of rural insurance broker Lycetts has issued his appeal during this week's Mental Health Awareness Week, when the spotlight turns to the pressures faced by different sectors of the community.

For farmers, the combination of economic instability, market volatility, red tape, a changing subsidy regime and climate change not only threatens their livelihoods but also risks impacting their mental wellbeing.

“Farming is not just a business, it’s a way of life that demands resilience in the face of the myriad of evolving challenges,” said Mr Appleton-Metcalfe.

“But even the most mentally resilient can struggle under the weight of financial and economic uncertainty. It’s important that residents support the local agricultural sector to help keep their rural communities alive.”

Mr Appleton-Metcalfe said there were several ways in which people can make a difference.

He said: “Minor changes in shopping habits can make a big difference. From buying local farm produce to help ensure farmers have a steady income to patronising local restaurants that champion local fare.”

In recent years, many farmers have been thrust into diversified enterprises in a bid to survive. More than two-thirds - 69 per cent - of farm businesses in England introduced some form of diversified activity in 2022/23, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) – from farm shops, cafes and glamping sites to B&Bs, wedding venues and petting farms.

“Residents can help support these new ventures, not only by visiting them, but also by promoting them to friends, family, colleagues and on their social media channels,” Mr Appleton-Metcalfe added.

“In addition, our farmers across Yorkshire and the Humber need access to mental health resources that address the unique pressures of the farming sector and wider agricultural communities.

“Organisations such as RABI (The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution) provide an invaluable service to UK farmers, helping them become more resilient and better able to cope with future challenges.

“By fostering awareness and advocating for such dedicated services, we can help safeguard the mental health of our farming community.

“Every individual can contribute to this cause. Whether it’s choosing to buy local, spreading the word about rural enterprises or supporting mental health initiatives, your actions can make a profound difference.”