In 2001, High Peak and Dales Primary Care Trust (PCT) conducted a Health Needs Assessment of the Derbyshire agricultural community as part of the “Farm Out Health Project.” This project was set up jointly by the PCT and East Midlands Development Agency in response to the steady economic decline experienced by the farming community over the previous decade, contributing factors to which included the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) crises, unfavourable exchange rates and rising costs.
The Assessment found that the agricultural community had a poor health profile, most notably with regard to mental health and musculoskeletal and occupational health problems. It revealed significant hidden deprivation. The report put forward 116 recommendations to address and respond to the issues identified, at both statutory and community level.
The creation of the Farming Life Centre was a community response to the research. During the course of the project a group of interested individuals with a common interest in preserving and celebrating the rural heritage of the Peak District had come together to consider ways of supporting the local farming community. The group included members of local voluntary and community groups dedicated to oral history and community development (Rural Education and Arts Project – REAP, History Live, Borderland Voices) as well as upland farmers and professionals from the health and community support sectors. The group secured funding to run reminiscence activities at Bakewell Cattle Market in 2002. Building on the positive reception and success of this initiative, it secured funding from DEFRA to convert a redundant farm building at Blackwell Hall Farm into a rural meeting place and Centre dedicated to supporting the health and wellbeing needs of the local upland farming and rural community.
The Farming Life Centre Steering Group established itself as a registered charity in 2004. The renovation of the farm building was completed in 2005, and funding was secured for two part-time members of staff. Over the past decade, the Centre has gone from strength to strength, developing a range of projects and services to address health, social and economic deprivation within the Peak District upland farming community.