As farmers struggle to cope with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their physical, mental and business health, Cornwall’s Farming Health Hub has produced a new leaflet sharing where they can find help and advice.

The lockdown restrictions are already reported to have had a significant impact on the sale and distribution of local produce, including milk, and the availability of farm workers to pick seasonal crops.

The decision to extend the restrictions has led to growing fears for the physical and mental health and wellbeing of farmers.

“While people working in the agricultural sector can access some of the business support measures already announced by the government, we know that many are struggling to understand and access the ever changing advice and guidance about what might be available to them," said Jon James, chief executive of the Farming Health Hub.

“With so many people in rural communities across Cornwall dependent on farming for their income, it is vital that organisations pull together to support and guide the farming community.

"We have worked with people across the private, public and voluntary sector to develop this document which contains the latest information about the support which is currently available, as well as practical advice on how people can protect their physical and mental health."

Local farmer and past chairman of the Cornwall branch of the NFU and RABI Martin Howlett said: “The resilience of farmers over the years is well documented; whether it be through continuous low incomes, animal disease challenge or weather extremes.

"However, it is the combined impact of shortages of farm supplies, lack of cash flow and the uncertainty of market trade, that creates the greatest damage to farm business, mostly family run on their financial, physical and mental health and wellbeing.

"The knock-on effect is inevitably felt by the wider rural communities during these most unprecedented times.

“As acknowledged key workers, it is reassuring to the farming community to know that both the Farming Health Hub (FHH) and the organisations which support it– such as the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) - are there to offer and signpost farming help and rebuild, both during and, equally important, after this pandemic.

"Together with the genuine support of our Great British public in recognising the value of our farm produce, buying local and now reconnecting with nature and its countryside, each give us renewed hope for the future.”

One of the organisations involved in the creation of the leaflet is the Farming Community Network . Cornwall FCN co-ordinator Sue Gillbard says the network is still taking cases which are being managed over the phone during the crisis.

“We recognise that this is a very difficult time for the farming community,” she said.

“There is lots of useful information on the Farmwell page of our website and we also have a Helpline which is open from 7am until 11pm if farmers want someone to talk to. The number is 03000 111 999."

Kelly Evans represents Cornwall Young Farmers Clubs. "Many of our clubs are supporting the elderly and those isolating in their local communities by helping with shopping and daily requirements," she said.

“We are very conscious of the impact the current situation will be having on isolated people living in the rural environment, so we are trying to keep in touch with members who require some help or just a listening ear."