RURAL Support has recently appointed two new Trust-ees – Claire Saunders and Jennifer Hawkes – who are joining nine other key figures in the agricultural community on the Trustee Board, bringing its total number to 11.
Claire Saunders, a native of Northumberland, England, has had a diverse career within the agricultural industry. She worked in London as Head of Marketing at J Barbour & Sons for seven years and then joined The Prince’s Countryside Fund in February 2015 as its Executive Director.
Stepping down from her post at The Prince’s Countryside Fund in August 2020, Claire has now settled in Bushmills and is grazing Belted Galloway cattle on the North Coast as well as continuing to work on a number of projects in the sector which benefit from her considerable expertise.
Commenting on her appointment, Claire said: “This is a time of great change for farming when having access to clear, impartial advice and support is crucial for the success of our farming families. This is the key focus of Rural Support, so I was delighted to be approached to join the charity as one of their new Trustees. I look forward to working with the team on the many challenges ahead and bringing the organisation to the next stage in its development.”
Rural Support also welcomed Omagh woman Jennifer Hawkes to the Trustee Board. Jennifer, originally from County Fermanagh, lives and works on a fourth-generation pedigree dairy farm with her family.
Now retired, Jennifer spent most of her career working as a Local Government officer; she is the current Chair of the Ulster Farmers’ Union Rural Affairs Committee and Chair of the Omagh Show Ladies’ Committee and has been past Show Society Chair and member of the organising committees for a long number of years.
Jennifer has had a passion for farming from a young age and in 2018 she was awarded the prestigious CARAS award by HRH Princess Anne for her contribution to the wider rural community.
Commenting on her appointment as Trustee, Jennifer said: “When I was approached to become a Trustee of Rural Support, I was really delighted. I have always supported the organisation and its vital work over the years, and I am looking forward to being part of the team’s future support strategy helping farmers and farming families during this time of change and uncertainty.”
John Thompson, Chairman of Rural Support, said: “We are very pleased to welcome both Claire and Jennifer to the Trustee Board. Both women are prominent figures within the agricultural community and have an abundance of experience and knowledge to bring to the organisation.
“Their passion and commitment to the farming community is commendable and their enthusiasm and support will help drive the charity forward as we press ahead with our new strategy and future plans.”
Rural Support continues to help farmers and farm families who are facing financial pressures, physical and mental health concerns as well as tackling isolation and loneliness.
Rural Support has a variety of free programmes available across Northern Ireland – The Business of Farming, Coping with the Pressures of Farming, Across the Hedgerow as well as The Prince’s Countryside Fund Farm Resilience Programme.