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Safe Farm EIP Project: Using Drama in a New and Innovative Way to Encourage Cultural Change Around Farmer Health, Wellbeing and Farm Safety

May 31, 2022 | EIP-AGRI News


Safe Farm recently launched its farm health, safety, and wellbeing European Innovation Partnership for Agriculture Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI) Project in County Cork. The project was officially launched by Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Martin Heydon. Members of Safe Farm’s operational group, participants in the EIP-AGRI Project, and key stakeholders within the wider farm safety network were present at the launch.

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 to farmers. Acorn Agricultural Research in partnership with University College Dublin, Dairygold, 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 the EIP-AGRI initiative.

The Safe Farm EIP project is using a bottom-up, farmer-led approach in designing and developing the training. An extensive needs analysis was conducted with Dairygold farmers last spring to determine their health, safety, and wellbeing training requirements and willingness to engage. Farmers involved in the needs analysis had a positive attitude towards farm health, safety and wellbeing training and were willing to engage in future training made available. Encouragingly, 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. 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.

The Safe Farm EIP project needs analysis 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 involved in the needs analysis feel they are overwhelmed with the amount of work they have to get through and are constantly chasing their tail. Additionally, children, young persons and the elderly are often present on farms given the family farm culture and tradition of Irish farms, which presents challenges not faced by many other sectors. The needs analysis also found that many farmers have concerns for their own and other farmers’ wellbeing given the nature of farming which involves working long hours often in isolation.

In response to the findings from the needs analysis, 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.

Speaking about the launch of this new programme, Billy Cronin, Head of Supply 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 she is ‘delighted to be partnering on this project. The agri-food sector is one of the most dangerous sectors to work in here in Ireland and many of the accidents, injuries, and fatalities happening on farms are avoidable. Farmers in general know what the risks are and are aware of the risks on their farms, there’s lots of awareness out there, but we need a cultural shift in mindset, attitude, and behaviour at farm level.’

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