Grassroots diary: Twitter helping to beat isolation in farming
Almost 10,000 farmers from across the country are overcoming the challenge of farming in isolation by taking part in on-going discussion, debates and story telling in their pocket.
Farmers Ireland, a Twitter account, was set in July 2014 and is curated by Lorna Sixsmith, author, dairy farmer and blogger, fondly known as the "Irish Fermerette".
Inspired by a similar initiative in Canada, Lorna selects a different farmer to take over the Farmers Ireland account where they can document and share their farm story. All kinds of farmers, including dairy, tillage, sheep, beef, poultry, mushroom, oyster and even snail farmers have managed the account over the last two years. Lorna says they've reaped wonderful social and educational rewards.
"The idea behind it is that a different farmer tweets from it every week and in doing so we share stories and our methods of farming and it's a way of advocating farming.
"The followers of the account are farmers from Ireland and all over the world and they are really interested in seeing different farming practices," she said.
Selected farmers are encouraged to post photos and videos of their daily routine and must presume that followers have no knowledge of their methods. "You have to take things back to basics and explain what it is that you do, some people find it easy, others find it more difficult.
Lorna encourages farmers to decide on topics in advance. "On a Monday they might decide it's introduction and to tell the history of the farm, show photogrpahs of ancestors, things like that, on Tuesday show exactly what they do as a dairy farmer this time of the year. On Wednesday they might talk about cattle prices or milk prices and the challenges of working off farm. By Thursday some might want to share a personal experience or challenge they have come up against in farming, it could be health related, safety related, it could be anything really" she said.
Some have shared stories of battles with depression. "Depression has been flagged, it's totally up to themselves but a couple of people have done it and it's getting a really good response," said Lorna.