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Joanna the ‘Farming Hero’

Joanna Foubister, a student here at SRUC, has been hailed a “British Farming Hero” for helping to draw attention to the issue of mental wellbeing in agriculture.

Joanna Foubister receives her award

Along with colleagues from the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC), distance learning student Joanne Foubister collected the ‘Farming Hero’ accolade at last night’s British Farming Awards in Birmingham.

In front of an audience of more than 700, the honour was given in recognition of the association’s ‘Are Ewe Okay?’ social media campaign, which is managed by Joanna and which aims to “break the stigma” surrounding mental health.

The Are EWE OKAY logo features the word "EWE" drawn in the shape of a sheep

Originally from Orkney, where her parents run a beef farm, 24-year-old Joanna now lives in Inverurie and combines studying for a Masters in Agricultural Professional Practice with her role as SAYFC’s Grampian Regional Events Manager.

She said:

“I feel incredibly honoured. It’s a huge achievement for the association and for me. Our aim is to get people talking about mental health. One farmer a week in Britain commits suicide and if we can help just one person feel that they’re not alone then we’re doing something right.”

Now in their fifth year, the British Farming Awards are organised by Briefing Media, owners of the Farmers Guardian.

The ‘Farming Hero’ award recognises the achievements of a person or group the judges believe demonstrate “resilience, steely determination and the motivation to make a positive change within the farming community”.

Emma Penny, Group Head of Content at Briefing Media, said:

“SAYFC won because we thought they were doing a fantastic job to really try to help farming. As an industry, we’re very reticent to talk about mental health issues. Farming can be a very lonely job. The campaign was very proactive and well thought through, giving people the tools that will help them for the rest of their lives.”

The agricultural community has begun to place a greater emphasis on addressing mental health. Earlier this month, SRUC introduced a three-year programme to build awareness among students and staff.

At last night’s awards, recent SRUC graduate Robbie Stevenson (Aberdeen campus), was shortlisted in the Agricultural Student of the Year category, as was Claire Simonetta (Ayr campus), who farms on Mull.

Wayne Powell, Principal and Chief Executive at SRUC, said:

“We are very proud of all of our students and former students who were nominated at the British Farming Awards, but special congratulations must go to Joanna and her colleagues at SAYFC for achieving well-deserved recognition for an extremely worthwhile campaign.”

Other former SRUC students shortlisted at the British Farming Awards were Will Sawday (Sheep Innovator of the Year); Sophie Alexander and Douglas McTaggart (Arable Innovator of the Year); and Gordon Whiteford (Against the Odds).

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