THE statistic is a grim one. On average, one person working in farming takes their own life each week.

“That’s why we were set up – because of the high suicide rate,” Simon Lloyd says of the Farming Community Network (FCN).

This national charity isn’t as well known as its team of volunteers would like and now Simon, co-ordinator of the Northumberland group, which also covers the northern half of County Durham too, is doing his utmost to spread the word.

“We’re not as well known as RABI (the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution), but we complement its work,” he said.

“We’ve got branches in pretty much half the English counties now and the telephone line is manned every day of the year, from 7am until 11pm. We don’t have any money to give out.

“Our job, first of all, is to listen and find out what the problem is and then help find a way around it.”

FCN has helped thousands since it was set up in 1995 (the Northumberland branch was established in 2001 amid the Foot-and-Mouth crisis) with stress and distress arising from financial difficulties, mental health problems, animal disease and relationship breakdowns.

In exceptional circumstances, the FCN is also used by the Rural Payments Agency to assess whether delayed payments have had an inordinate effect on a claimant.

The charity is entirely dependent on donations. The most recent donation, of £575, was made by the Richardsons of Wheelbirks Farm, near Stocksfield, from money raised during an Open Farms Sunday event.

The FCN’s national helpline number is: (03000) 111999.