Family difficulties ‘cause deepest upset’ for farmers, says chaplain

PUBLISHED: 12:30 27 March 2017

Rev Janet Nicholls, Essex rural adviser and agricultural chaplain. Photo: ARCHANT

Rev Janet Nicholls, Essex rural adviser and agricultural chaplain. Photo: ARCHANT


Family problems cause the deepest upset for farmers, according to Essex farm chaplain Janet Nicholls.

Rev Janet Nicholls, rural adviser and agricultural chaplain. Photo: ARCHANTRev Janet Nicholls, rural adviser and agricultural chaplain. Photo: ARCHANT

Despite the big national concerns over Brexit and uncertainty over farm incomes, she finds in her job, which started in 2015, that the closeness of relationships in farming families means that tensions can come to the fore.

“Farming families can often live together, work together and socialise together. This is fine when all is going well, but if difficulties occur in any one of those areas, it can impact on all three, escalating into something that can feel inescapable.

“Such difficulties can cause underlying distress that can unsettle and destabilise farming communities,” she said.

“There is clearly a lot of anxiety around the uncertainties of Brexit and continued low farm incomes. But it’s often the personal and family issues that farmers raise with me.

“Sometimes, just sharing and verbalising these difficulties with someone outside the family, who understands the unique problems of farming, can help to ease the situation.”

Providing a neutral, listening ear for people is often very welcomed, she said, and she has been “humbled by the overwhelmingly positive and welcoming responses to the chaplaincy” since she took on the role.

Rev Nicholls, who is also rural adviser to the Diocese of Chelmsford, is from Great Bardfield and grew up on the family farm. She now lives in Shalford.

She provides pastoral support and care to the farming community, of any faith or none, and organises a range of agricultural services across the county.

“When I was licensed to this role in Chelmsford Cathedral I promised that I would pray for the farming community and I have done so every day since. Whether people are of faith or not, there seems to be something reassuring about having a person whose job includes praying for them,” she said.

“Listening with care and without judgement is at the

core of my work. I sometimes drive away from farms, feeling rather embarrassed by the

thanks I’ve received for simply sitting and listening. But I’ve realised that many people in our multi-tasking, smart-phone world, have lost the skills of careful, attentive, uninterrupted listening. So, with an understanding of farming issues, I simply provide a neutral and compassionate listening ear.”

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