The founder of a farming support page has been shortlisted for the Digital Innovator of the Year in the 2023 British Farming Awards. 

Stephanie Powell, 65, started the ‘Farming Facebook Fireside Chat UK’ Facebook page in March 2020, aiming to address the loneliness experienced by farmers in the UK.

The page is focused on providing support and comfort for farmers who could be grappling with their mental well-being.

Stephanie said: “Covid came along in March 2020 and I knew farmers would be suffering with loneliness even more than they were before. 

“Someone put me in for the award and neither of us thought it would get anywhere and so I was so surprised to find out I had been shortlisted.” She added. 

“It’s really not very me. I‘m not very digitally innovative, I’m 65.”

Given her experience living alone on a farm in Llanvapley, Stephanie is aware of the potential pitfalls of loneliness. 

She said: “I hear farmers saying they are struggling being alone. 

“Many years ago farmers would be surrounded by people on the farm yard but now it’s just one person running a massive farm, alone. A lot of them come home on the long, dark and wet winter evenings to nobody. It would be sole destroying.

“On the page, we don’t just talk about mental health on the page because that isn’t what’s going to encourage farmers to join in the first place. 

“We often have discussions about the weather, everyone's favourite machinery, sharing photos and even cooking tips.

“If we put up posts that can be replied to then we are giving people something to do or think about.”

They have expanded the members of admin since the page began and now have eight people approving members and posts. 

“Sometimes you will get anonymous posts late at night and it can be someone calling for help or advice. I stay up late a lot of the time to make sure these people have someone to talk to.

“Recently we had a young farmers wife who had just had a baby. She was alone and the baby wouldn’t stop crying. Her husband would be out on the farm until very late. Ultimately we couldn’t help her physically but just giving her someone to talk to and advice from members of the group made a huge difference.

“The page is in place to make up for the friends who are no longer next door and we do our best to give advice a friend would give.

“Myself and the rest of the admin are delighted to have been shortlisted for this award.”