Throwing a lot of color: How moving away from gray buildings can help farmers’ mental health | Agriculture

TA modern farm is rarely a thing of beauty. While a farm in Britain may conjure up to many with free-roaming grazing animals and animals, the reality is nothing more than a collection of fluffy metal barns.

It turns out that a large, temperature-controlled windowless shed can be the most efficient way to house and fatten farm animals, especially chickens. But among the many downsides to the animals’ health and well-being, they also leave farmers miserable.

Yorkshire-based farmer Chris Harrap, who Books on the impact of building design on farmers and livestock.

“Thousands of years ago agriculture was about managing the land and the animals. Then people suddenly found out that we could move to indoor intensive methods and the buildings themselves moved from storing things to where I spent a lot of time.”

Helen and Ben Taylor Davis stand in front of the mural painted on their steel ceiling, showing the scale of the structure
Helen and Ben Taylor Davis on their farm. The giant mural has proven to be popular with visitors

The result, says Harapp, is devastating to farmers’ mental health. he thinks that Relatively high suicide rate In the sector may be linked to the daily working environment of the farmers.

“Humans and animals need to interact with the natural world we came from, but they spend the whole day inside an intense indoor shed,” he says.

One of the farms trying to counter this novel is run by Ben and Helen Taylor Davis near Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire.

Ben’s father tried to weed him out of his career choice, fearing that farming would quickly become a lonely occupation, as most producers believed their future depended on ever larger barns and a greater focus on a few types of animals or crops.

Ben and Helen Taylor Davis in front of a mural - photo taken from a closer distance than the previous photo
The Taylor Davis family opened their farm to public and local businesses

It is common in the United States for a farm to have 40,000 head of cattle rather than a large number of people – it is surprising how few employees are needed to run an extensive cattle ranch.

In turn, Ben and Helen decided to diversify their farm and open it up to local and public businesses, bringing as many people as possible onto their lands on a regular basis.

The diagram on the side of the worm plant shows how wormwood is produced
A worm on the farm includes information on how visitors work

The couple put up more than a dozen signs and there are a series of walking paths, a farm shop, a microbrewery, and a converted barn used by local food companies. “The biggest difference today is the diversity that exists within the farm. I love to see people enjoying it,” says Ben.

“It’s about using your farm in a way that others can enjoy, too,” says Helen. Most farmers ‘move away from my land’ but we ‘get’ it a lot.

The most popular addition was a giant mural on the side of one of his sheds, which, Ben says, always brings a smile to his face when he walks past. An explosion of colors and landscaping transformed an ordinary steel farmhouse shed.

“We’re used to working in a gray grid. A lot of the time the farm is a bland and boring place to work, and if you’re not too happy, things won’t go well. That’s why there’s such a big mental health problem in farming,” says Ben.

Ben Taylor Davis examining grapes
Ben examines grapes in the vineyard. Diversification is key to the changes Taylor Davis has brought to the farm

The lackluster farmhouses, Harrap says, are a symptom of a larger problem in modern agriculture. While every farm had a shed, it was seasonal, used for part of the year to house animals and at other times to store hay, for example.

The farmer contacted Harrab with the goal of “make their barns nicer,” but says that “green washing” on an intensive farm is not a solution.

“The real issue is intensive indoor breeding. It is not about changing buildings, but changing the farming system to a regeneration system [which for him is mixed farms with a diversity of crops and animals].

“You can make a nice shed that is free of grazing, but basically people and animals need to blend in with the ground, and not feel like they’re in an artificial shed,” he says.

Helen with farm goats
Helen with farm goats. Renewable mixed farming has benefits for humans and animals

Harrap says farmers deserve sympathy rather than criticism from animal welfare activists for their work environments, as they struggle to deal with the compromises they see as necessary to stay in business.

“Modern farm settings restrict our ability to communicate with animals, but that doesn’t mean farm workers don’t care about animals because they do. People feel stuck. They should know it’s okay to say ‘I’d rather go outside.’ We need to criticize the system. And offer great sympathy to the people caught up in it.”

In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted at 116 123. In the US, the national suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, Lifeline Crisis Support is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries It can be found here. in the UK, farm community network The helpline is also open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day of the year on 03000 111999.

Stone-built outbuilding with sign
Traditional outbuilding on Taylor Davis Farm

Sign up for Monthly update of farmed animals For a roundup of the best agriculture and food stories around the world and keep up with our investigations. You can send your stories and ideas to us at

Leave a Comment