Inspirational 'Naked Farmer' dies after cancer battle
PUBLISHED: 09:54 23 September 2019 | UPDATED: 09:54 23 September 2019
An inspirational Norfolk farmer who raised more than £50,000 for a mental health charity while battling both terminal cancer and depression has died at the age of 46.
Patrick Joice, of Uphouse Farm in South Raynham, near Fakenham, died peacefully in his sleep on September 19 after "fighting to the end", said his family.
The pioneering poultry farmer was given five months to live in March 2018 after doctors diagnosed him with salivary duct carcinoma, a very rare and incurable cancer.
But after initially beating those odds he also had to face up to the devastating depression which followed - a condition he admitted he "didn't believe in" until he was persuaded by his family and friends to accept counselling from Norfolk-based farming mental health charity The YANA (You Are Not Alone) Project.
Determined that some good should come from his situation, he repaid the charity's help by organising the Naked Farmer Cricket Match at Brisley in June, which generated £53,000 for YANA, while raising awareness of mental health issues within the often isolated and vulnerable farming community.
His wife Zanna said: "Patrick was always striving for the best - he never did anything half-heartedly.
"He always wanted to leave a lasting legacy in farming, but I don't think he expected it to be done in the way he has done it. He would have hoped to make his mark in the poultry industry and continue improving it, like his father, but in the end he has made his legacy in a way that is much more important than a general farmer. He has done it in a way that is going to help many more people.
"He was loyal to all his friends and family. He was someone who always had a smile on his face when he walked into a room, and he was full of mischief and cheekiness. There was always a twinkle in his eye."
The cricket day was named in honour of the Australian Facebook page The Naked Farmer, where Mr Joice first revealed his story. It encourages farmers to post nude pictures of themselves and discuss their problems, on the basis that "it takes guts to get your gear off, as it takes guts to talk about mental health".
At the event, YANA patron Melinda Raker told the 300 people attending that, as well as raising vital funds for the charity, Mr Joice's courage and honesty about telling his story had also elevated the level of awareness and conversation about mental health within the Norfolk farming community - sparking a huge upsurge in calls to the charity's confidential helpline, and a greater uptake in funded counselling.
READ MORE: 'Some good has to come out of this' - Terminally-ill farmer's defiant battle against depression
During his farming career, Mr Joice achieved a prominent position in East Anglia's poultry sector, succeeding his father Nigel as the region's representative on the National Farmers' Union (NFU) Poultry Board in 2018.
The father-of-two was also a keen advocate of encouraging youngsters into agriculture, as chairman of the UK's Poultry Industry Programme.
Nick Deane, chairman of the Norfolk branch of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) said: "Patrick has been a significant influence, both within Norfolk and nationally, on leading innovative poultry production and promoting it to the wider world.
"He is someone who has been prepared to stand out and be very open about what he has done, and he brought forward lots of new ideas for the industry.
"His campaign to raise awareness about mental health was characteristic of everything else he did in life. He was very open about himself and his problems, and he wanted to raise awareness to help others. He was a tremendously brave person."
- A private cremation will be followed by a service of thanksgiving at St Mary's Church, East Raynham, at 2pm on Monday, September 30. The family requests no flowers, but donations for YANA may be given at the service or sent c/o Fakenham and District Funeral Services Ltd, Weasenham Manor, Weasenham St. Peter, PE32 2TF (01328 838838).