MUSIC, comedy and verse are being harnessed to counter the ‘graft and gutters’ of winter and lift the spirits of farmers as part of RSABI’s #KeepTalking campaign this year.

Highlighting the importance of kindness and sharing the load, the aim is to encourage farmers to look out for each other during the winter months and to take a break from the inevitable ‘graft and gutters’ when they can.

The Scottish Farmer: The Farmers ChoirThe Farmers Choir

Agricultural charity RSABI originally launched its #KeepTalking campaign during the first wave of COVID in 2020 to encourage people in Scottish farming to stay connected and to look out for each other, and in particular to get in touch with anyone who might be feeling low or lonely.

Farmer and comedian Jim Smith kindly offered his services as the face of the #KeepTalking campaign and is supporting it again this year, including joining The Farmers Choir for a special concert in Perth Concert Hall on February 25.

The Scottish Farmer: The message is, if you are concerned, to go back after that first I'm Fine and check againThe message is, if you are concerned, to go back after that first I'm Fine and check again

Tickets for the concert are available via the theatre’s website at As well as raising funds for RSABI and Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance, it is hoped the event will encourage farming folk to take an evening off the farm and perhaps bring along to the concert someone they haven’t seen for a while.

The role of singing in mental health is something which Kate Picken MBE, who established The Farmers Choir a decade ago, is passionate about.

“Singing plays a huge part of helping with mental health. There are many benefits of singing and the joy it brings everyone. It is a great way to get off the farm to do something different and feel part of the choir family. You can leave your troubles at the door when you are part of the choir and it takes you away from your daily struggles and the challenges you have in life, and just enjoy some time for yourself,” said Kate.

The Scottish Farmer: The importance of kindness and sharing the load is being highlightedThe importance of kindness and sharing the load is being highlighted

“Everyone has to deal with so many challenges in life these days, especially in farming, and if you can be involved in singing in some way and join a choir, it will really help you cope better with life. I would encourage everyone to keep singing – the only thing better than singing is more singing!”

RSABI has also been working with poet Becky Hemsley who gave permission to use the words of her powerful poem titled I’m Fine as part of the #KeepTalking campaign.

Thanks go to the Perthshire and Lanarkshire farming families who helped produce a poignant video to accompany Hemsley’s words, resulting in a film which has already been viewed more than 30,000 times on RSABI’s social media.

The words of the poem encourage people to check in on their community and look out for any telltale signs of someone who may be feeling lonely or struggling with their mental health. Most importantly, the message is: if you are concerned, go back after that first ‘I’m fine’ and check again.

The moving creative features a backdrop of farmers at work with a voiceover of Hemsley’s vivid and moving poem, telling the tale of a farmer struggling with his mental health before opening up to someone. He recognises that while the person he opens up to feels they cannot do a lot to help, in fact by just listening they have lightened the load to a much more manageable level.

Hemsley’s poem highlights the importance of sharing worries and cares with someone else and making time to really listen to others, be they family, friends, colleagues or neighbours, in our communities.

Chris McVey, welfare manager at RSABI, said: “The message highlighted through this poem is to check in on those around us and don’t be afraid to ask again if the response you get is ‘I’m fine’ and you feel that may not be true.

“It’s particularly important that we look out for each other and show kindness at this time of year. When the days are short, farm roads can feel long and it can feel like there is little joy in the midst of a long winter of graft and gutters.

“At this time of year, an unexpected phone call, visit, or act of kindness can make a huge difference and, for someone who is struggling, it could lift the spirits more than you may ever know.”

RSABI offers free practical, financial, and emotional support including counselling services, delivered quickly after receiving the initial enquiry. Its free confidential support service is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year, by calling 0808 1234 555 – calls won’t show up on phone bills – or through a confidential webchat service, available on RSABI’s website

I’m Fine – Becky Hemsley Poetry

Today I said ‘I’m fine’, not once

But five times altogether

When people asked ‘how are you?’

Then made small talk of the weather.

And so I hid behind my mask

The one I’d worn a while

I set in place my bravest face

And dressed it with a smile.

And that was how the day went

All ‘I’m fine’ and talk of rain

Until somebody asked me how I was

Then asked again.

They asked if I was truly fine

And I said I was not

And they said they were sorry

That they couldn’t do a lot.

But then they sat beside me

Whilst I spoke the truth at last

They listened and they held me

As the tears slipped through my mask.

And where before, I’d felt I should

Maintain this brave façade,

I realised there was much to gain

By letting down my guard.

See, though my load was still the same

It now was not as heavy

‘Cause sitting and offloading it

Had helped a bit already.

Today they asked ‘how are you?’

And I told them I was fine

‘Til someone saw behind the mask

And asked me one more time.

And though they may have felt

That there was little they could do

They’ll never know how much it meant

To tell someone the truth.