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John Craven OBE honours Herefordshire farming couple with major award

19th October 2022

Broadcaster and presenter, John Craven OBE, has honoured an inspirational Herefordshire farming couple with a coveted National Lottery Award in recognition of their incredible work in supporting those with mental health issues in the farming community.

BBC Countryfile presenter, John Craven, visited Kings Pitts Farm in Kingsthorne near Hereford today (Thursday October 20th) to present married couple Sam and Emily Stables with their award after it was announced they had won the Community category in the 2022 National Lottery Awards.

Sam and Emily Stables set up the We are Farming Minds charity in September 2020, following Sam’s own personal experiences of poor mental health and a suicide attempt. The National Lottery funded charity helps raise mental health awareness in rural Herefordshire and supports the wellbeing of farmers across the country.

Sam Stables dreamed of being a farmer but found it hard to cope with the isolation that came with the job. Working in a rural area, the demanding nature of his lonely and exhausting work took its toll on his wellbeing. Poor mental health is 46 per cent higher in farming than in other occupations, yet rural communities have less access to support.

Seeing no way out, the father-of-two prepared to take his own life while wife Emily was at work. But what sounded like a final “I love you” conversation with him led them to alerting a neighbour, who thankfully found Sam just in time.

Sam realised that it would have helped if there had been someone he could talk to about his mental health battles before he really began to struggle. So the couple joined forces to set up We Are Farming Minds, a charity which aims to break the stigma surrounding isolation, loneliness and mental health that is prevalent within the farming community.

Two National Lottery grants amounting to nearly £150,000 have enabled Sam and Emily to provide a dedicated 24-hour helpline, a service staffed by them and a team of specially trained volunteers. The charity also employs a dedicated Project Manager, funds counselling, and gives mental health awareness training to the wider agricultural community, including vets and feed reps. They are taught how to spot the signs of mental illness when visiting farmers and how to offer support. They have already trained about 200 people and hope to reach more than 500 farmers through their various support networks.

The National Lottery Awards are the annual celebration of the inspirational individuals and groups who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.

More than 1,300 nominations were received in this year’s campaign and a judging panel selected Sam and Emily Stables, who farm 81 hectares of the Duchy of Cornwall Estate, at Kingsthorne, Herefordshire, as a winners for their dedication in supporting vulnerable farmers in rural communities.

Sam’s wife and Co-Founder of We are Farming Minds, Emily Stables, said: “Sam and I are delighted to be announced as winners in the National Lottery Awards. It’s nice to be recognised for the work we’re doing to raise awareness of, and support people with mental health problems in rural communities within Herefordshire.

“Our mission is to reach out to as many people as possible in the farming community to break down stigma, open up support and say to every farmer ‘Its ok not to be ok’. The National Lottery funding is enabling us to do exactly that and we are now able to reach more people with our support.”

Delighted to be announced as winners in the Community category, Sam Stables, said: “It’s fantastic to get recognition and to know that there's a real need for the services we offer. The feedback we get has been amazing and to know we’re making this kind of impact is pretty special.”

"It can be a very lonely job. I reached a crisis point and I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and, after a thankfully failed attempt to end my life, I saw the light. With the support from my wife, we decided to create a charity that offered farmers like me a judgement free space. It’s what farmers do – we all stick together no matter what.”

Presenting Sam and Emily with their award, John Craven, said: “I’m truly honoured to present Sam and Emily with their award which recognises their outstanding efforts in establishing a much-needed resource to support people suffering with mental health issues and isolation in the farming community.

These are issues we have covered extensively on BBC Countryfile over the years and I know that charities like We are Farming Minds play a vital role in breaking down barriers and the stigma often associated with mental health in farming and rural communities generally.

It's truly inspirational and humbling to see how Sam and Emily have turned what was one of the darkest chapters of their lives into something so positive. They, and the community in Herefordshire, should be really proud of their efforts.”

As winners of the Community category, Sam and Emily Stables will receive a £5,000 cash prize for their organisation and a National Lottery Awards trophy.