Inspirational Norfolk farmer and mental health campaigner named UK's Farming Champion of the Year
PUBLISHED: 12:23 04 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:24 04 October 2019
Tim Relf / Sonya Duncan
An inspirational Norfolk farmer who selflessly fought to smash the stigmas around mental health during his own battle with terminal cancer has won a national honour from his industry.
Patrick Joice, a poultry producer from Uphouse Farm in South Raynham, near Fakenham, was hailed as the Farming Champion of the Year at the 2019 Farmers Weekly Awards.
The announcement came just two weeks after Mr Joice died at the age of 46 following a courageous fight against both his illness and the depression which followed it - during which he became an energetic fundraiser and a powerful voice for mental health awareness.
After his diagnosis, he realised first-hand how debilitating mental health issues can be and set about elevating the discussion on the topic and raising much-needed funds for Norfolk-based farming mental health charity The YANA (You Are Not Alone) Project.
His charity cricket match in June raised more than £50,000 for the cause and he candidly shared his story, including via the global Naked Farmer social media movement, to encourage more people to come forward to talk about their mental health.
His openness sparked a surge in calls to YANA's helpline and boosted the amount of counselling it was able to offer.
Awards judges said: "This man's brave and selfless efforts have - and will continue to - change countless farmers' lives for the better.
"He was an inspiration and leaves a legacy that will change many in the farming community for years to come."
READ MORE: Inspirational 'Naked Farmer' Patrick Joice dies after cancer battle
In advance of this week's London awards ceremony, National Farmers' Union president Minette Batters travelled to Norfolk to present the trophy to Mr Joice shortly before his death. His wife Zanna said although he never sought such accolades, she was glad her husband was able to personally accept this recognition from his grateful industry.
"He was so humble when he was told and felt he wasn't deserving of such an award," said Mrs Joice. "He never looked at what he had done as something that needed rewarding, as the reward for him was seeing so much benefit that had come from his story.
"I know he was so proud of what he has achieved and the legacy that lives on with YANA, and the work they continue to do is fantastic."
Ms Batters added: "While our thoughts and prayers are with Patrick's family at this time, we also want to remember and show our appreciation of the incredible leadership he demonstrated raising awareness of, and funds for, mental health issues.
"He showed great bravery sharing his own experiences and getting involved with the 'Naked Farmer' social media movement which resonated with farmers everywhere."