11 May 2001
Disease turns farmer into counsellor

By Sarah Walton

A FARMER hit by the foot-and-mouth epidemic plans to quit farming for a counselling career.

Alastair Fisher believes caring for people instead of cows is the best way forward after a case of foot-and-mouth on the family farm.

More than 100 dairy cows and 400 sheep were slaughtered last month at the farm near Ivegill, halfway between Penrith and Carlisle, Cumbria.

Mr Fisher, who is studying for a diploma in counselling, said the course had helped him cope with the loss of his cows, which he had regarded as his friends.

He first became interested in a career change when his wife Carla was diagnosed with cancer in September 1998. The couple have two young children.

Mr Fisher said: It really made me sit up and think that perhaps there was something else I could do besides farming, something that would give me more time with my family.

Mrs Fisher responded to treatment, but foot-and-mouth proved to be the last straw for Mr Fisher, who plans to find a living outside agriculture.

He said: I loved farming, but it was the hours I had to work. These last four years have been hell. Once it was profitable to farm, but the way the industry has gone everyone has to do so much work.

The farm has already diversified into livery and has 17 horses. But no decision has yet been taken to restock with other animals, said Mr Fisher.

He and his twin brother, Duncan, are seriously thinking which way they want the farm to develop.

Having passed a GCSE in psychology and further advancing his studies, Mr Fisher has now been offered a job as a key worker at the Croftlands Trust, Carlisle, a day centre for people who live on their own but need support.

He told FARMERS WEEKLY: I get as much out of counselling as I did out of farming.

Mr Fisher said he would urge other farmers to decide what is really important to them. Far too many people had become bogged down with the foot-and-mouth situation.

All anyone can do is look at their own business and do what they feel is right for them and their family.

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