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Gay farmers helpline in Cheshire in 'high demand'

The Reverend Keith Ineson
Image caption The Reverend Keith Ineson set up the helpline in late 2010

A Cheshire chaplain said he has been overwhelmed by the response to a helpline set up to support gay farmers.

Churches Together in Cheshire's Keith Ineson started the service due to the "special issues" the farmers faced.

Mr Ineson said the majority of callers were over 50, who had bowed to "pressure to get married and produce an heir [and] now feel trapped".

He said demand for his service was now so high, he hoped to expand it with volunteer help.

Mr Ineson, who is gay, began the service after being approached by farmers who were unable to reveal their sexuality to family and friends.

He said those he had spoken to had "huge isolation problems", as they felt excluded by both the farming and the gay communities.

"What I'm finding when the gay farmers ring up is that they think they are the only gay farmer in the world," he said.

"There's the pressure in the farming community to get married and produce an heir, so a lot [have done that and] now feel trapped.

"When they are looking for gay areas, they are not at home down Canal Street, they are at home in the countryside.

"So there are huge isolation problems."

Mr Ineson said that the farmers were having to deal with these issues on top of depression, which he said was "an industrial disease for the farming community".

He said that the service was a useful tool to help the farmers "look at the options" available to them.

"We listen, it's as simple as that," he said.

"We don't take over the farm, we don't take over the marriage; we help them to look at the options that are around and then they decide which option they're going for."

Mr Ineson said that while he hoped to to expand the service, he was aware he was "fishing in an exceedingly small pool" when it came to finding suitable volunteers.

"They need to be able to listen, to know about gay issues and preferably know about farming as well," he said.

"I spoke to some of the original gay farmers [who rang] and asked them what they would have done if someone answered the phone who was not male, not gay or not a farmer.

"They said they would have simply put the phone down."

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