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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Embrace FARM to expand services to suspected suicides on farms

Being awarded European Innovation Project (EIP) funding will enable Embrace FARM to expand its range of services.

According to general manager, Norma Rohan, this funding will “expand our services to include other types of sudden traumas like suspected suicide on farms and will enable us to support more farm families”.

“This fund is for one year and will enable us to get it off the ground. We extend our thanks to Martin Heydon the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and his officials for this initiative.”

Embrace FARM services 

Rohan appeared before the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food, and the Marine last week to discuss farm safety.

The charity currently has approximately 300 farm families in its peer-to-peer support network.

It supports those affected by farm accidents, both the bereaved family and the survivor.

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She told attendees that the charity “creates a space for people to connect and share their story with people who truly understand the devasting impact a farm tragedy has”.

It “support people who unexpectedly find themselves on a journey of loss and trauma”.

She said, “The HSA will tell you the statistics about how many people die each year on our farms, and will give you the breakdown about what caused their death”.

“Embrace FARM talks about the people behind those statistics. We put a person to each one of those numbers and speak about the true toll of the devastation caused.”

“These farmers are more than just a number. They each leave a legacy behind them, none more so than to their family,” she added.

Embrace FARM’s foundation

Rohan also told attendees how Embrace FARM’s foundation came to light.

She explained that she originally hailed from west Limerick and met and married a pedigree Holstein Friesian farmer ten years ago.

She explained: “As farms don’t move, I now find myself living in lovely Laois.”

“As newlyweds, we were in our own little happy bubble. We were renovating the old farmhouse, and I found myself pregnant with our first child very quickly.”

“So we were happy out on our journey and welcoming the start of our own little family. Our daughter, Julie, was born, and life couldn’t have gotten any better.”

They were navigating their way through having a newborn at that stage, but “all was good”. Norma arrived home from the hospital on a Sunday; it was Fathers’s Day and Brian’s birthday.”

Farm accident

Two days later, their “perfect happy little bubble was shattered into smithereens”.

Brian’s father, Liam, a champion ploughman and community activist, was involved in an accident on their farm. He was rushed to hospital and placed on life support.

“Those machines were switched off three days later. There began our journey into trauma and grief,” she explained.

To have no control over this journey was something she found “very difficult” personally.

“My everyday life was now guided by my husband’s grief. Brian wanted to be strong, to be the fixer in the family, to take on his father’s role, but he was hurting, in shock.”

“He blamed himself for what had happened on our farm as he wasn’t with his dad at the time. The ifs, onlys and why didn’t I/he were a common theme in those days.”

“We coasted along, keeping our heads above water emotionally, trying to deal with something neither of us had ever been through before. It was a true test to us in the early days of our marriage.”

She explained that neighbours and extended family were the “best to help”, as they are in all farming communities.

They milked their cows and completed other farm tasks, but “eventually they had to go back to their own lives”.

Eighteen months later, the couple began seeking outside support specific to farming but could not find any.

So “after many conversations,” they decided to establish their own charity, with the ethos of “picking up the pieces after a tragedy happens on farms”.


Rohan believes “if there is to be a cultural change in agriculture around the behaviours of farmers when it comes to farm safety, then that behaviour needs to change in the entire sector”.

“As without the farmer, there is no product. We are all able to sit here today because a farmer has provided food to sustain us.”

“Officials and processors, when doing their inspections, need to look further than just the farm gate and the operation of the enterprise. What about the farmer’s well-being?”

Furthermore, she also called on media to “stop publishing images that condone unsafe practices”.

“Sometimes, bad things happen after a sudden and traumatic death on a farm.

Rohan said the farmers are “resilient people who want to do the best for their land and animals”.

But, as people, she believes they should not be the only ones “making sacrifices and changes”.

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