MBE was ‘a big surprise’ for farmer Charles
A farmer is celebrating being awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for charity work he has done to provide emotional and practical support for others in his industry.
Charles Smith, who runs Grange Farm between Saxby and Wymondham with wife Judith, said it was ‘a big surprise’ to be recognised.
And he hopes the honour will raise awareness of the increasing mental health issues faced by farmers because it was awarded following his eight-year service as CEO at the Farming Community Network (FCN).
The charity’s 400 volunteers talk to the nation’s farmers about the issues they face including a drop-in service at Melton Livestock Market which proved popular until it was suspended due to Covid restrictions.
Charles told the Melton Times: “Year on year we have seen a steady increase in the number of farmers who approach FCN with mental health problems which are the result of being under continual stress.
“There is a growing recognition of the issues farmers face and of the wonderful work FCN is doing to help.”
He added: “From the outside it seems an idyllic life, but so many of the variables we rely on to produce crops and animals are completely outside our control.
“If a lot of these things go the wrong way it puts a huge amount of pressure on the farmers themselves and on their relationships.”
The issues associated with the isolated nature of farming have been exacerbated, he said, by the challenges of operating in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Activities are currently restricted at Melton’s Tuesday markets, with farmers unable to mix like they have traditionally done at sales.
“The whole social element of the market, which was a very important part of many farmers’ lives, has been eliminated so although farmers were isolated before they are probably more isolated now,” said Charles.
Born in Scotland, Charles and his wife, who both come from farming families, have owned their farm for nine years.
They have three children and a granddaughter.
He received a letter from Prince Charles, who is patron of FCN, following his award.
Charles added: “I heard about the MBE a few weeks ago and it was very difficult to keep it a secret from my wife and family.
“I have had lots of people congratulate me which has been heart-warming.”