Farming Minister takes part in tractor relay on mental health

Mark Spencer drives tractor to Parliament to shine a light on mental health in rural communities

The Farming Minister Mark Spencer has today (6 July 2023) driven a tractor around Parliament Square into the Houses of Parliament to help raise awareness of mental health in farming and rural communities.

The trip around Westminster marks just one segment of the Len’s Light Tractor Relay – which is covering over 2,000 miles from John O’Groats to Land’s End – to shine a spotlight on how mental health can affect those in rural communities and help break down stigma surrounding mental health in the farming sector.

Len’s Light was launched in June this year by Lynda and Andy Eadon in memory of their son Len Eadon who took his own life in January 2022, and is working with the Farming Community Network, Farm Safety Foundation (Yellow Wellies) and Papyrus to raise awareness and funds to support farmers’ mental health.

The relay comes as the Farm Safety Foundation recently surveyed 450 UK farmers under the age of 40 and found that 94% of them agreed poor mental health is one of the biggest hidden problems facing the industry today – up from 84% three years ago.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said:

"It’s hugely important that we raise awareness of the mental health impacts in farming and rural communities and I’d like to pay tribute to all those charities and individuals, including Lynda and Andy, who are working tirelessly to bring this to light.

"I’m honoured to have played even just a small part in this goal by getting behind the wheel today, and will continue to do all I can to ensure farmers can access the support they need, including through our Future Farming Resilience Fund and ongoing work with charities such as Yellow Wellies."

Andy and Lynda Eadon, Founders of Len’s Light, said:

"Len’s Light is a nationwide journey reaching out to everyone in the rural community with the message that no one in the rural community should feel isolated and alone.

"Len’s Light Tractor Relay would not have started if we had not reached out for support from Sir Jeremy Wright MP, Mark Spencer MP, Stephanie Berkeley from the Farm Safety Foundation, and the NFU team – especially Minette Batters and George Bostock.

"With the help of everyone, we will continue to talk about positive mental health in the rural community which hinges around talking, listening and honesty."

Today’s relay builds on other important work to reduce stigma around mental health in farming. Earlier this year, for example, Sam and Emily Stables received Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Points of Light award for their work establishing ‘We Are Farming Minds’, a charity that offers a befriending service and dedicated 24-hour helpline staffed by trained volunteers, and provides funding for farmers to access professional counselling services.

The government is investing at least £2.3 billion of additional funding a year by March 2024 to expand and transform mental health services in England so that two million more people will be able to get the mental health support they need.

Farmers’ mental health and wellbeing are also being prioritised and supported in the government’s Future Farming Resilience Fund, which provides free business support to farmers and land managers in England. This includes support from in-house experts or signposting to external expert services, and the government has worked with the Farm Safety Foundation to provide advice and information on how to identify potential mental health issues and provide tools for addressing them.

The Len’s Light Tractor Relay began at John O’Groats on 20 June, with a specially designed beacon on the front of the tractor lighting up the route. The relay has stopped at livestock markets and machinery depots around the UK to spark conversations around mental health with farmers and others living in rural communities, as well as raising awareness at large agricultural events including the Royal Highland Show. The final leg of the relay will take place at Land’s End on 23 July.

NFU President, Minette Batters, said:

"As an industry we’ve got to make greater strides to talk openly about our mental health and wellbeing. We’re encouraging the farming community to start a conversation with a neighbour, friend or family member. It really could make a huge difference.

"I applaud the bravery of Andy and Lynda Eadon who have worked so tirelessly to shine a light on achieving positive mental health in farming and rural communities. Having lost their own son, they’re both doing all they can to ensure no one in the countryside feels isolated or alone. The Len’s Light tractor relay is an extraordinary and emotional journey by a couple who are determined to make a difference to mental health and wellbeing. On behalf of the NFU we wish them all the very best on their onward journey."

Stephanie Berkeley, Manager of the Farm Safety Foundation, said:

"There are thousands of farmers struggling with long term ill health in the industry and many more with mental health conditions. These people are working every day regardless to ensure we have food on our plates.

"Initiatives like this by Lynda and Andy - under the most tragic of circumstances - really do make a difference.  We are so grateful to them and admire them for the hard work and pure determination that making this journey through the country will help raise awareness and prevent another farming family going through the worst of tragedies."

Ged Flynn, Chief Executive of the national charity PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide, said:

"We would like to say a big thank you to Andy and Lynda Eadon and all those who are supporting their remarkable Len’s Light campaign.

"Their event is raising valuable awareness of suicide prevention which in turn will help us to continue giving hope to young people who are struggling with life.

"Fundraising and generous donations help to pay for potentially life-saving calls, texts and emails to our confidential HOPELINE247 service, which offers support and advice to young people and anyone who is worried about a young person who may be having thoughts of suicide."

Dr Jude McCann, Chief Executive Officer, The Farming Community Network, said:

"Andy and Lynda and the Len’s Light campaign are carrying a vital message of support that is resonating with farmers and people living in rural communities across the UK. None of us should feel alone - we are part of a supportive community that is here to listen, support and help.

"No matter what pressures you may be facing, FCN and other farm support charities are here to help people find a positive way forward. FCN volunteers understand farming life and its unique stresses, and can be contacted in confidence 365 days of the year on 03000 111 999 or"

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
The Rt Hon Mark Spencer MP