Third-generation suckler and sheep farmer Maura Canning, Loughrea, Co. Galway will chair the 2:30pm - Improving Farming; Health; Lifestyle and Safety forum at FARMEX this Friday.
Maura, who is married to Seamus and a mother-of-two is best-known for her role as the former IFA (Irish Farmers’ Association) Farm Family and Social Affairs Chairperson as she was instrumental in overhauling the Fair Deal Scheme.
The 2:30pm panel that she will chair at the one-day agricultural conference will feature Peter Gohery - livestock farmer and accident survivor; improving farm health - John G. McNamara - Teagasc; Reducing Farm Accidents - Pat Griffin - HSA; Clever Drafting and Heat Detection Solutions - Chris Murphy - Saber.
"A ticking time bomb"
Maura will share the story of how her health was compromised in October-2012. The Irish Heart Foundation detected that Maura had high blood pressure when she dropped by an information stand at a Women in Agriculture conference.
Maura visited her local GP as advised and she purchased a blood pressure measuring unit at a local pharmacy.
With a blood pressure reading of 226 over 118, Maura was hospitalised for one week where she underwent numerous tests.
She was informed that her blood pressure was most likely stress-related, as she had no previous family history; she was also told that she had high cholesterol.
"When I came out, I was on such a slow down. I was involved in lots of different things and I just had to take a back seat." Maura Canning told Catherina Cunnane of That's Farming.
Lifestyle and Health
"People including farmers need time to stop and think about their health and their safety, as both of these are linked."
"You need to learn to say no and slow down. It is important to take time out to do things for yourself and avoid being on the run all the time."
"I was walking around like a ticking time bomb and I didn't realise it. High blood pressure is a silent killer." She added.
Maura did not experience/display any of the common symptoms, although she could not sleep at night and had to sleep for 20-25-minutes during the day.
"The consultants said that they couldn't understand why I didn't get a heart attack or stroke."
"This was because of my fitness level - I was fit enough to take such the flow that my heart was pumping so quickly.
Maura's blood pressure and cholesterol are now under control due to the implementation of lifestyle routine and dietary changes.
"There are still times when I am stressed out; I sit back and tell myself that I have to slow down. Your body will tell you."
As well as monitoring ones physical health, Maura is also keen to encourage parties to manage their mental health and well-being.
"It is important that people reach out for help if they need it. It only takes one phone call to talk to someone who can help."
"There are lots of isolated farmers in Ireland that don't talk to anyone from one end of the day to the other. When you meet those people, they can find it difficult to interact with others."
On the topic of farm safety, Maura believes that the minimum amount of investment eligible for approval which has been set at €2,000 for the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme 2 (TAMS II) should be reduced to €1,000 as a result of deepening income crisis for farmers.
"Due to the income situation on the farming front, it is difficult for the smaller-scale farmers to invest €2,000 and wait up to 12-months for their grant."
"I have been speaking to the Minister about this issue, as I want this to be reduced. A lot of farmers want to spend €600-€700 on a calving gate and this might reduce an accident on a farm."
Drawing attention to the farm safety discussion at FARMEX, Maura said that more awareness needs to be created.
"Several accidents are caused by rushing. A lot of farmers don't take time to think, as they are constantly thinking about the entire list of jobs that they have to do in one day."
She said that publication entitled 'Staying Fit for Farming' is a valuable resource for farmers, as it provides some simple steps that farmers can take to protect and improve their health.
As well as this, she highlighted the importance of FARMEX - the business of farming - a new one-day conference and trade exhibition on how to increase profitability; sustainability and add long-term equity value to the family farm business.
"There will be a huge amount of information available at FARMEX all under the one roof."
"If a farmer brought one piece of information home and implemented a change on their farm, it could make a major difference," Maura concluded.
Tickets for FARMEX are €20 for adults; €10 for agri-students and €40 for a family (two adults & children). Car parking is free and one can avail low-cost group travel via Bus Eireann at only €15/20 per person return.Book online here and save €5 on your ticket, use - 'thatsfarming' as your discount code; fill in a short questionnaire and enter a free draw for €2,500 in Agri input & services prizes