“It is quite a responsibility – but so rewarding.”
Having started his career as a professional Rugby League player, Graham Hogg ran his large family farm in Cumbria for 30 years. Now 61 and semi-retired from a third career in stonemasonry, he is Forage Aid’s Regional Co-ordinator for the Cumbria-North Lancs area, and lives with his wife in Egremont. In 2016 he won a Spirit of Cumbria Award for his work alongside volunteers Paul Winder and Shaun Hodgson.
How did you get involved with Forage Aid?
I first came in contact with Andrew [Andrew Ward MBE, Forage Aid Chairman] in 2014, when we were both helping Cumbria’s farmers cope with the heavy snow that hit that year – he was in the first year of setting up Forage Aid, and at the time I was the NFU’s Livestock rep.
When Cumbria’s farmers were again hit in 2016, this time by the devastating floods of Storm Desmond, Forage Aid were again very quick to get involved. Straightaway Andrew phoned and asked if I would coordinate Forage Aid’s operations here because he was aware that I knew many of the affected farmers personally and trusted that I could get the help that was being offered to them quickly. Of course I said yes straightaway – I could see that the farmers in our area were desperate.
As Regional Co-ordinator what part did you play in the operations?
Essentially, my role was – and would be again, if another crisis were to hit the area – to make sure that each individual farmer who was in need got the help that they needed. On a basic level that could mean helping those with farms with access problems by setting up depots where forage could be dropped off and collected.
But it also meant doing many other things, such as reaching out and making connections with those who were too proud to ask for help, or who didn’t know that help was there; making sure that farmers got the exact type of feed that they needed for their particular livestock; working with the other charities who were helping those hit by the floods to make sure that no-one fell through the cracks; and regularly feeding back to Forage Aid on individual’s needs and the needs of the area as a whole, so they could source the feed and bedding that was most needed. I was also an Agony Aunt too! It was and is quite a responsibility – but so rewarding.
How do you find the experience of working with Forage Aid?
The help that Forage Aid provided for these farms was just fantastic. Time was of the essence, and the first load from Forage Aid arrived just a week after the floods hit. Our farmers couldn’t believe the generosity of what was arriving – often it was just as good, if not better than their own forage. And the hauliers who got involved were just fantastic too – people were so grateful for everything that was done for them. The people of the area still remember and appreciate it so much.
From the very start I could see the vision the Forage Aid team had, and I cannot stress enough how brilliant it’s been to see them bring it to where it is today – there’s never been a backward step. They’re very good at asking the right questions and getting it right before they go in.
Forage Aid understands the farming community so well. There’s a real understanding of their plight in these circumstances. Plus, they recognise that it’s not just physical help that’s needed – there are many other things too.
Will you continue to be involved ongoing?
Absolutely. I’m still Regional Co-ordinator for Cumbria, and if something happened here tonight – more floods perhaps, heavy snow, an earthquake! – Forage Aid only has to phone me and everything would fall back into place.