FCN’s new chief joins Britain’s Fittest Farmer 2020 judging panel

The new chief of The Farming Community Network (FCN) has joined the hunt for Britain’s Fittest Farmer 2020.

Jude McCann, who took over as the top man at the charity in January, joins Farmers Weekly‘s community editor Oli Hill and Farm Fitness founder Tom Kemp on the competition’s judging panel.

Having grown up on a small family beef farm in mid-Ulster, Northern Ireland, Jude has a wealth of experience in agriculture and the farm support sector.

See also: Fit2Farm: How to recognise and deal with stress

Before heading up the FCN, he spent seven years at the helm of Rural Support – a charity that gives support to farming families in Northern Ireland.

“We’re delighted to be part of the Britain’s Fittest Farmer initiative and I encourage as many people as possible to apply and get involved,” says Jude.

“This is all about looking after yourselves, your families, your neighbours and friends by thinking about mental and physical health.”

As a judge, Jude will be helping to assess the contestants on their awareness of mental health matters and looking out for their innovative ideas to get more farmers proactively thinking about their own wellbeing.

Turbulent times

His time studying abroad has given him a thorough knowledge and understanding of global agriculture, particularly when it comes to welfare and social issues in farming communities.

Jude spent time with New Zealand farmers to examine the social effects of the country’s farm subsidy reforms in the 1980s, which he says got him interested in how rural communities live and work together.

“I’m new to the FCN, but well versed in the issues that matter to our farmers, from TB to mental health,” he says.

“The huge potential of the charity is what attracted me to this role. The FCN is needed now more than ever before. It’s going to be a turbulent time for our farmers, where some will embrace change and others will find it very challenging.

“We want to provide as much and as appropriate support as possible, given what’s coming in the next few years.”

See also: When, how and why farming charities FCN and Rabi can help you

Signs from the rural community are encouraging, as the charity is seeing a surge in the number of fresh volunteers keen to help the organisation expand its reach and effectiveness.

Back at base, it’s been a hectic first few weeks in the job for Jude as farmers who have been struck by flooding and storm damage reach out for help.

He says the charity is working closely with Rabi, the Prince’s Countryside Fund and others to bring relief and support to farmers devastated by the extreme weather of recent weeks.

“Rain is hitting ground that is already saturated, and while we have seen a rise in calls, it’s often the case that farmers begin to ask us for help in the weeks and months that follow on from the sort of crisis we’re seeing right now.

“We’re working collectively with other charitable organisations because we can achieve so much more this way.”

Silver anniversary

As the FCN marks its 25 years of helping farmers in need, Jude says he’s excited to see large numbers of young, ambitious volunteers stepping up to do their bit for their communities.

The organisation’s online resource Farmwell forms the centrepiece of its wide-ranging support, offering a wealth of information and guidance to aid the resilience of farmers and their businesses in changing times.

The online initiative gives farmers free advice on mental health and social issues such as managing stress, coping with bereavement and sexuality.

Tips on staying physically fit and safety at work are also available, alongside in-depth information on business matters such as succession planning, financial management and farm diversification.

Contact FCN for help

If you are a farmer who has been affected by the flooding, contact the FCN for help by calling 03000 111999 or email help@fcn.org.uk.

The charity’s volunteers are on hand to provide practical and pastoral support.

Britain’s Fittest Farmer 2020: How to apply

Go to the Britain’s Fittest Farmer website, answer a few questions on how you keep physically fit and look after your mental health and upload a video or photo of yourself.

Check out the fantastic applications so far for some inspiration.

About the competition

Britain’s Fittest Farmer is a competition designed to encourage a vital discussion about the physical and mental health of the nation’s farmers in a fun and friendly atmosphere.

So, if you can outrun a fleeing flock of sheep or do press-ups in the milking parlour, you could be just the person Farmers Weekly is looking for.

As farming becomes less active and more mechanised and office-based, it’s more important than ever to make sure Britain’s farmers are getting the exercise they need to stay fit and healthy.

Farming can also be an isolated job, which is why it is also vital for farmers to focus on their mental health and wellbeing so they can keep their business in tip-top condition.

The competition closes at 11.59pm on 17 April 2020 – see the Britain’s Fittest Farmer website for full details, terms and conditions.

Entrants must be aged 18 or over and be working in farming or the wider agriculture industry.

Britain’s Fittest Farmer: Our sponsor and partners

Grenadier: Sponsor
Tough, rugged, agile – the new INEOS Grenadier 4X4 will share plenty of traits exhibited by the winner of Britain’s Fittest Farmer. That’s why we’re so pleased to be sponsoring this rural British physical challenge.

As an uncompromising, no frills, off-road vehicle, the Grenadier will provide all the capability, durability and reliability you need to tackle the toughest tasks on the farm. That’s why we see ourselves as the ideal partner for this true test of grit, endurance and strength.

For more information on Grenadier, pay a visit to their website.

Farm Fitness: Partner
Farm Fitness has rapidly become a burning beacon on the UK fitness scene, attracting spectators and participants from all over the country to come and take a swing at its almost alchemic blend of modified strongman, functional bodybuilding, calisthenics and blistering cardio efforts.

The gym, founded by farmer’s son Tom Kemp, was voted one of the best gyms in the world and ‘coolest outdoor space’ by Men’s Health (PDF)

Tom has blended his farming background with his love of training to create a raw and exciting outdoor environment for people of all strengths and abilities to get fit.

The Farming Community Network: Partner
The Farming Community Network (FCN) is a voluntary organisation and charity that supports farmers and families within the farming community through difficult times.

The charity has helped thousands of people deal with a variety of issues, including financial difficulties, animal disease, mental health and family disputes.

Volunteers provide free, confidential, pastoral and practical support to anyone who seeks help, regardless of whether the issue is personal or business-related. FCN also runs a confidential national helpline and e-helpline.