Denbigh woman praises foundation for helping her cope with farming pressures

MENTAL HEALTH HELP: Ffion Hooson, who runs the family farm near Denbigh, with Ieuan Edwards, founder of Edwards the Welsh Butcher and supporter of rural mental health charity The DPJ Foundation (Image: Rick Matthews)

The DPJ Foundation, a charity dedicated to helping people in rural communities cope with mental health issues, was hailed by a young woman from Denbigh who is familiar with the challenges of running a farm.

Ffion Hooson has praised the DPJ Foundation for the support they showed him via social media posts when the pressures of running the family farm almost proved too much. At 18, Ffion took over the family’s 180 acres at Segrwyd Isa when his father, Huw, suffered a stroke.

The DPJ Foundation was established in 2016 by the family of young Pembrokeshire agricultural entrepreneur Daniel Picton-Jones, father of two, who took his own life after battling depression. The charity has now helped over 650 people in rural Wales and is at the heart of Farm Mental Health Awareness Week this month.

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The charity has been backed by one of the country’s best-known brands, Conwy-based Edwards the Welsh Butcher. They donated proceeds from their stand at the Royal Welsh Show, over £1,300, to the DPJ Foundation and the company’s chairman and founder, Ieuan Edwards, paid a warm tribute to 22-year-old Ffion.

She took over the family’s 180 acres at Segrwyd Isa in hopes her father could return and she was grateful to DPJ for reaching out to her when she posted a tweet saying how hard she was to find him . Ffion said: “They are a brilliant charity and have done so much for farmers and helped people speak out when they were suffering alone.

“They agreed to ask for help and I followed their Twitter feed and found it very helpful. I tweeted myself once in 2019 about how hard I was to find it because I I was under pressure to take over and the first two years were very difficult. DPJ came back to me with a message of support and it was helpful knowing that they were there to talk if I needed them.

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Ieuan Edwards, of Edwards the Welsh Butcher, himself comes from a farming family in the Conwy Valley and understands the pressures and loneliness faced by those working in agriculture. He said: “A lot of people probably think that being a farmer and working in a beautiful natural environment is a good life and it can be, but it can also be pressured and lonely.

“There are few safety nets if things go wrong, which is why the work done by the DPJ Foundation to offer support to people in the countryside is so important. Ffion has really stepped up and shown a real courage in taking over the farm and finding a way forward and how she was helped by DPJ is an example of the vitality of their help.”

Ffion is now in a better place herself and has come to terms with the fact that her father will not be well enough to take over, but thanks to the support of her neighbors she is in a much better place. She said: “Without Dad by my side, it was the loneliness that affected me the most and not being able to do things as well as he would have. I didn’t have the experience to run the farm or to be able to make the right decisions. It was a big responsibility and you never learn to completely get out of it.”

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Ffion has now partnered with a nearby farm and has reduced the number of sheep she owns to a small herd of 30 while maintaining a herd of 100 beef cattle. She said: “I found it almost impossible to run the farm on my own, but our neighbors were very supportive.

“It’s about helping each other. It’s nice to have neighbors and friends who are ready for anything for you. Now during the winter they keep their beef cattle in my sheds and I look after them and in the summer they help maintain the land and that means a lot of the weight has been taken off my shoulders.”

To speak to the DPJ Foundation, call or text the 24-hour helpline to speak to a volunteer who can be there to listen to you or connect you with a counselor. Contact details for Share The Load are – call 08005874262 or text 07984169652.

For #AgMentalHealthWeek, the DPJ Foundation is offering free online mental health awareness training to anyone who works or lives in the agricultural sector in Wales. Online training takes place on October 26 at 6 p.m., November 16 at 9:30 a.m. and December 5 at 1 p.m. To book go to the Eventbrite page here.

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Get all the latest news, updates, things to do and more on the dedicated site InYourArea Feed of Denbigh, at Clwyd.

About Keneth T. Graves

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