THE fact that Sally Conner will be a familiar face to many readers is testament to her success in her role as the regional manager for RABI (the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution) in the North-East of England.
She has been helping to raise awareness of the organisation and provide support for the farming community for the past 14 years.
RABI has been supporting farming people throughout England and Wales for more than 160 years. The organisation serves anyone from the agricultural community through a network of locally-based teams, who understand the pressures that can arise in the sector.
It is therefore vital that Sally connects with the farming community and, in normal times, this would largely mean her attendance at face-to-face events, agricultural shows and harvest festivals, as well as hosting fundraising farmhouse breakfasts.
She also co-ordinates RABI’s North-East of England county committee branch, which fundraise and raise awareness of the charity in the region. Sally’s work was recognised last year, when she received the Driffield Agricultural Society’s RH Mountfield award for her outstanding contribution to agriculture.
Farming is in Sally’s blood. She grew up on the family’s arable unit near Driffield, where her brother continues to run the business. Despite her farming roots, her first career move was to take a job as a medical secretary. This lasted for a decade until she got married to her husband, Mark, a local pig and arable farmer who contract-rears 12,500 pigs on straw from weaning until store weight.
The couple has three children: Holly, an administrator, Charlotte, a teacher and Sam, who works on the family farm.
In 2003, Sally became the co-ordinator for Yorkshire Rural Support and went on to work for the Churches Rural Commission. In 2007, she joined RABI in a field-based role while also acting as the administrator for the family farm business.
Her involvement with RABI has seen several developments within the organisation in response to the changing times. In 2020, the charity launched its free, farmer-focused and online wellbeing and counselling platform, Qwell, as part of a five-year strategy.
More recently, RABI has conducted its Big Farming Survey. It is the largest research project of its kind and aims to find out more about the complex challenges that face farming people in England and in Wales. The results from the research, which saw 15,000 respondents take part, will be released this autumn and used to shape RABI’s future support services.
“RABI’s new mental health provision is very welcome news, because people who are struggling can suffer from stress. This, in turn, can have a negative effect on their ability to manage the farm business, or perform well in their jobs,” she pointed out.
“Our services are aimed at all farming people, so if I receive an enquiry from someone, I will work with the team to help to direct that person to relevant support.”
Sadly, the Covid-19 outbreak has meant that the event programme across the wider farming community has had to be put on hold. However tentative plans are already underway to set out a potential diary for the coming months, although it will be dependent on Government lockdown guidelines.
It is hoped that Sally will be able to resume her regular presence at this year’s Great Yorkshire Show, as well as organising the popular programme of carol services at the region’s marts.
“RABI is a charity that is very dear to the hearts of the farming community and the team is always extremely grateful for all of the goodwill and support that is received,” said Sally.
“Our fundraising events are always strongly supported. One highlight was the 2019 launch celebration for our County Durham team, which raised a record amount of £34,000 from a single event.
“Every pound counts and it is not a question of how much is raised because we greatly welcome all fundraising activities.
“Overall, I thoroughly enjoy the varied work that is offered through my role with RABI; it gives me a great deal of job satisfaction to know that our team effort is helping to support the farming community.”
The RABI telephone helpline is 0808 281 9490.