Tackling loneliness and isolation in the countryside is an enormous challenge, but one woman’s Facebook group has had a huge impact and made her a heroine to thousands of women across the UK.
Chloe Williams had a lot of connections to the countryside, but didn’t come from a farming family so when she married a farmer, Ben Williams, it was quite a hard transition.
Though she worked as a nurse to begin with, Ben did long hours on the farm and she was living in a new setting. Then, a few months after having her first son, she was suddenly hit by how lonely and isolated she felt.
“I was working before, but then I had Hugo and was living in a small town, so I didn’t see anyone. I went to baby groups, but would come back upset and crying,” she recalls.
The difficulty lay in meeting and making friends with people who understood farming and what being married to a farmer meant.
“One day I was visiting my sister in Tewksbury and scrolling through Facebook when I saw a girl’s post, saying that she’d followed a farmer in his tractor because she really wanted to marry a farmer.
“I noticed that a lot of farmer’s wives were commenting that it’s a lonely life and not all it’s cracked up to be.”
This was the moment Chloe wondered if there was a group for farmers’ wives, whereby they could talk, share and get help. “There was nothing in this country, so my mum and sister suggested I should set something up,” she says.
So in August 2015, she started the group, called The Crazy Life of a Farmer’s Wife, expecting to maybe attract about 50 members who would understand the lifestyle.
In the first two days, the group gained 50 members and in just over three years it has grown to accommodate 5,300 women.
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Before setting up the group, Chloe had experienced conflicting feelings since moving to Trebella Farm, near Skenfrith, Monmouthshire.
She had at times felt isolated and wished she could spend more time with Ben, but also felt tremendously guilty for feeling this way when living in such a beautiful setting, which she knew others expected her to appreciate more.
“I thought it was just me that felt this way and was worried because I didn’t feel as happy as other people thought I should,” she says.
Chloe and Ben now spend more time on the farm together. “If he can’t be home, then I take the two boys to him. Now we have picnics in the field and he always puts the boys to bed. It’s about making little routines.”
The Crazy Life of a Farmer’s Wife
The group became a huge success and much bigger than Chloe had ever envisaged. “The first few weeks I had to really work to get people talking, but it’s just grown from there. My mind has been blown by the uptake – it’s become my life.”
The wonderful thing about the group is that it makes it okay to speak out about these feelings, she says. “It’s been a godsend to me and it’s definitely helped my marriage.”
The group has also saved lives. Chloe received a message from a farmer’s wife saying she was going to take her own life. Chloe had the woman’s address and was able to call the emergency services and send them to her house to find she had taken an overdose.
Chloe now has four women who write a blog once every four weeks, which she checks and then uploads to the group, website and Instagram.
This is aimed at giving people who don’t use Facebook more access to the community and letting them get a glimpse into the life of other wives.
There are some concerns that the group might come across as a bit moany at times, but Chloe has her own solution to this.
“There are days when it feels quite negative, so I will post something happy to take it in another direction,” she says.
What the group offers
- Professionals on hand for advice, including a midwife, lawyer, nurse and counsellor
- Organises JustGiving pages for those in need of help
- Christmas shoe boxes for those less well off
- WhatsApp groups for pregnant women and those who’ve just given birth
- Designated discussion topic days, such as Mental Health Mondays and Women’s Health Wednesdays
In 2016 Chloe got suggestions from a number of members to produce bumper stickers so they could spot each other. “I didn’t know how I would do it as I had no money to put into it,” she recalls.
Luckily her sister and brother-in-law own a printing business and were able to help her out. This snowballed into producing hoodies and now consists of a full range of merchandise.
“It was a major success and has grown from there. I spotted my first bumper sticker last year and it causes such a buzz – you feel like you’re part of a special club,” she says.
Chloe has been invited to a Facebook event in January to tackle mental health online. “They saw what I’ve been doing with the group and were impressed – it’s very exciting,” she says.
Although she misses being a nurse, she’d like to make her commitments to the group a financially viable business as it takes up most of her time.
“I’d love to do this for the rest of my life, but I need to think how to feed my family. I love bringing people together and helping isolated and lonely women feel less so.”
Despite the incredible success of the group, Chloe is still extremely humble and has found worrying about keeping everyone happy her biggest challenge. “It’s hard to get my head around. To me, I just started a Facebook group.”
Events and awards
Chloe has also arranged a Go Crazy Ball in Gloucestershire on 3 November, where 130 wives and their partners will attend from all over the UK to meet one another, have an informal dinner, raise money for The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (Rabi) and the Air Ambulance through a raffle and receive some fun awards.
Earlier this year, Chloe was nominated as a finalist for the Countryfile Farming Hero Awards and within the first night of the nomination being aired on TV, the Facebook group had 800 new requests.
“To even be recognised for the award was amazing, let alone getting down to the last three,” she says.