Updated: Jun 11, 2020

Sharon - Lead Chaplain

Hi! My name is Sharon Mayer and I am lucky enough to live and work on the most beautiful farm in Cheshire – Toft Hall near Knutsford. I arrived here in 1977 straight after A levels, a green townie who longed to study agriculture and later tropical agriculture at Nottingham university but needed a year’s practical experience first. In typical fairytale manner I fell in love with and married the farmer’s son and after completing the initial degree, married Simon in 1980. We have 4 children, 3 sons and a daughter, all of whom have chosen to follow different career paths leaving me to take on the farm tenancy when Simon sadly died from pancreatic cancer in February 2006 aged just 53. I very much valued the kindness and support of my church families at Knutsford Methodist and St John's Knutsford during this time

I worked for 15 years as a swimming teacher, both at my local swimming club where I was Coach and Coordinator of lessons and swimming teams and at the David Lewis Centre for adults and children with severe epilesy and related syndromes. I learnt to communicate with people using whatever medium was available be it water, facial and body language or symbols and speech. My husband was profoundly deaf and my mother is German though I only learnt German as an adult. My life pre Chaplaincy seems to  have been one of preparing and developing my communication skills and my ability to see two sides to every story. I love to listen and can empathise with loss whatever that loss might be. Sharing losses together can be hugely helpful for all concerned and Im so grateful to those who had time to listen to me.

MHFA trained

Ros - Development Manager

I was born and brought up on a sheep, beef, dairy and arable farm in Herefordshire where my family still farm and I still visit regularly with my children. I left school and started working for a land agent in Herefordshire and was very involved in working and running of livestock markets in Ledbury, Ross-on-Wye and South Wales which I thoroughly enjoyed, as well as assisting Land Agents with their workloads.

I developed my skills and became an expert in Milk Quota Trading from 1995 dealing with numerous Dairy Farmers all over the UK. I set up an office in Cheshire in 1998 trading Milk Quota and after developing it into a new firm of Land Agents became an owner of the business in 2004, unfortunately due to personal circumstances I had to exit the successful business in 2015. I was involved in developing all aspects of the business from all elements of book keeping; staff management; business development; completing BPS forms; organising and presenting at seminars and attending shows. My exceptional organisational skills have given a good basis for helping and assisting others in taking their businesses forward.

I have a strong interest in mental health in general, but especially in the countryside and have completed my training in Level 2 Listening and Counselling Skills. I have a passion for working for and helping the farming community.

Monica - Assistant Chaplain -Retired Farmer

I was born in 1947 at RAF Gutersloh, Germany and have two younger sisters. I grew up in Prenton, Birkenhead, Wirral and attended Woodchurch Secondary School for Girls. I was a regular worshipper at Holy Cross church, Woodchurch, where I was confirmed and had been a bell ringer and chorister.

I started my first job in 1963 at Silcock and Lever Feeds in Liverpool as a stock control clerk but was soon promoted to a computer animal feed formulator and in 1968 I transferred to the animal feed factory as a Personnel Assistant where my duties involved payroll and the interviewing of hourly paid workers. The factory closed in 1971 and I was made redundant but soon secured a job in the Dole Office in Birkenhead. I have been involved with the Chaplaincy on a voluntary basis for over 10 years. In July 2018 I passed the University of Chester’s Certificate of Higher Education in Ministry and qualified as a Pastoral Worker to the Cheshire Agricultural Chaplaincy Team. The training involved listening to those preparing for Baptism and Marriage, the Sick and the Dying and those bereaved. I have a huge involvement in SoBS (Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide) Chester as a support group leader and a SoBS helpline volunteer. I have also completed the Papyrus ASIST course, trained to listen to those suffering from depression. I represent the Chaplaincy Team on CWAC’s Suicide and Self Harm Prevention steering group.

Naloxone trained

Helen - Dairy Farmer - Assistant Chaplain

I grew up on a Dairy farm, after finishing school I then attended Reaseheath Agricultural College to study Agriculture. I was very involved with young farmers and was chairlady of the once club Chester YFC.

After getting married, my husband and I struck off on our own and rented a County council farm.

I first got involved with Cheshire Agricultural Chaplaincy in August 2017 when I took over managing the existing Facebook account and setting up of the Twitter account which has resulted in interaction with other farmers across Cheshire, the UK and around the world … wow!

Gradually over the last few years I have become more involved in the different areas of the Chaplaincy work and look forward to this evolving.

MHFA trained.

Naloxone trained.

Peter - Listener

I am a retired Anglican Vicar, I’ve worked in the counties of Derbyshire, Lancashire, Cheshire.

Involved with 8 different churches. Large town, small town and country.

Experience with many groups of people as an Army, Hospital, and Prison chaplain.

I served as RECTOR of Wilmslow for 22 years before moving to 2 very rural villages.

I was very involved at the Foot and Mouth crisis. Very concerned about the agricultural communities.

I know many farmers and had many farming friends.

Karen - Dairy Farmer

I was born in Sandbach and spent the first part of my life around race horses with my Grandfather. After leaving school I worked on a racing yard until my mid 20s. when I landed a job in legal recruitment. Climbing the ladder I became a director of a London based company and was responsible for opening three new offices across the northwest. Although I loved the buzz and excitement of city life my heart was in the country with my horses and chocolate lab Poppy Jones so in 2009 I gave up the glitz and glam for wellies and cows when I married Tom an old flame! .Tom is a dairy farmer near Congleton and together we run Halton Farms Ltd, milking 530 cows with 300 followers. We sell milk to the public from an on farm vending machine and have this year (2020) set up a small pasteurizing plant so we can sell our own milk direct to the doorstep. In 2018 we became an AHDB strategic dairy farm. I got involved with the Agricultural Chaplaincy back in 2013 as I wanted to offer support to farmers struggling in changing times . I feel with my dairying background there are skills and experiences I can share. I am also a member of the Agricultural Chaplaincy Management Team.

John - Dairy Farmer

I was born in 1948 in Unsworth Lancashire to a farming family went to Cof E primary and secondry modern attended sunday school at local Methodist church. Moved to Farndon Cheshire in 1965 age 16 to a dairy farm joined the young farmers and met Sue my wife we married in 1974 I joined the territorial army for just under ten years furthest outpost I went to was Cyprus worked at home on the dairy farm all my working life seen many changes in dairy farming and not all of them good.

Colin - Fruit Farmer

I've recently retired after 50 years of fruit farming.

I was born in the farm house at Eddisbury Fruit Farm in 1946.

After leaving school at 18, I worked on 2 Warwickshire fruit farms before going to Pershore Institute where I gained a Certificate in Horticulture, returning to Eddisbury in 1967, where I have been ever since. My father and I were planning to go into partnership but he died suddenly in 1971, leaving me the farm which I ran till 2001, when I went into partnership with my stepson, who had also been to Pershore, where he learnt the craft of apple juice and cider making.

In 1996 we stopped using the Wholesale markets because of diminishing returns and turned to Farmers Markets , which were a God send financially but meant working a 7 day, 80hr week.

Succession to the next generation wasn't to be, so I've sold or rented the land and buildings to a local family who are carrying on the business. I'm giving them help and support so they will succeed. I have kept one orchard.

I became a licenced Lay Reader at St Andrews Tarvin in 1998, where I also ring the bells and wind the church clock.

My other hobbies are folk singing, playing jigs and reels, and folk dancing. I have recently recorded a CD of my father's folk songs, which I now sing in local folk clubs.

Sally - Methodist Lay Preacher

I am a Methodist Lay Preacher, and work for the Methodist Church as a Community Lay Worker and Fund Raiser. Since January 2018 I have also been the Fund Raiser for the Chaplaincy - starting with little knowledge of farming, but able to learn quickly. Previous work has included Quantity Surveying, Physiotherapy, factory work, postal worker, cleaning, bar work and lollipop lady - I am a people person!

Maureen Team member

My name is Maureen Hinkins and I have been married to husband, David for almost 52 years. We have two adult sons, three grandsons and one granddaughter. I was born in a small town called Mossley in Lancashire, now part of Tameside in Greater Manchester.

After our marriage we tended to move around the country quite a bit depending on David’s job. I worked in administration for the local authority for many years and later in professional office PA roles. After becoming a Christian in 1992 our awareness of the needs of the outside world pressed on our hearts and David and I decided to leave full time employment in 1998 and we volunteered to work in Southern Africa, first in Botswana and then in Zimbabwe until we returned to the UK in 2004 to be nearer our family.

In 2009 we returned to the north west and settled in the Northwich area being central for our family. We have always been part of a local church wherever we have lived since becoming a Christian and feel it is now a good time to work alongside the Cheshire Agricultural Chaplaincy to help those who need support.

David Team member

I was born in 1944 in Greenfield Saddleworth West Yorkshire and spent my early life up to leaving school working on a farm when not at school or spending an occasional day with the local gamekeeper.

After school I trained as an engineer before joining the Royal Navy. After 5 years I received a medical discharge for injuries sustained. I married Maureen in 1967 and we have two sons and three grandsons and a granddaughter.

After the RN I went back to engineering working in Hampshire and then in Shropshire.

I changed occupation and worked as a Project Manager in Northwest England, Greater Manchester, Bosnia during the conflict driving an ambulance although I only spent two weeks there, Botswana two years and Zimbabwe 4 ½ years as National Director for Habitat for Humanity International a US charity, not to be confused with the store of that name, and in my spare time Mentoring some farmers in Zimbabwe during Mugabe’s so called land reform . Finally, the Scottish Highlands for five years before returning to the north west to be with Family.

I was trained by the RN and other organisations as a Mentor and worked for five years after retirement as a volunteer with SAFFA, The Soldiers and Airforce families Association as a mentor working with young men who had received a medical discharge because of injuries sustained in either Iraqi or Afghanistan. The travelling and stresses involved became too much and I had to resign from SSAFA earlier this year in 2018.

Graham - Solicitor

I am a practicing solicitor concentrating on agricultural work; I enjoy working closely with clients who operate in the farming and rural sector. I advise clients across Cheshire, North Wales and beyond on a wide range of matters relating to agricultural land, agricultural tenancies, succession issues, partnerships, sporting rights and development work. I qualified in 1986, I am a fellow of the Agricultural Law Association, an associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, the honorary solicitor to the Cheshire Agricultural Society as well as the honorary legal officer to the Agricultural Chaplaincy.

Sarah - Chartered Surveyor

I am a director at Meller Speakman Ltd a leading Cheshire-based firm of Land Agents and Consultants based in Wilmslow. Meller Speakman act for a diverse range of clients offering strategic estate management, ‘Red Book’ valuations, succession planning, farm and land sales and contract farming advice and management. I am also a tenant dairy farmer’s daughter and although I have worked predominately as a Landlords Agent for the last 11 years I’m fully aware of the struggles and pressures on tenant farmers as well as the wider farming community. I enjoy working closely with clients who operate in the farming and rural sector and having been involved in a number of sensitive cases, from which I became aware of the work of the Agricultural Chaplaincy and the valuable support they offer to the rural community. I am very much looking forward to developing my role as the honorary Chartered Surveyor to the Cheshire Agricultural Society and look forward to working with the team.

Julia Dakin Team member

My name is Julia Dakin. I have always lived and worked on a dairy farm my whole life. I started in Winsford then moved to Malpas when I married my husband David. We have now lived here for 25 years and we have 2 children, one at university and one working on the family farm, and is working to expand into poultry.

I did my A levels, left school and went to work in a bank, then moved to Dalgety Agriculture. I then began touring around Cheshire and Shropshire selling Denkavit milk powder, until we started our family.

I have always been interested in horses, being an avid rider since I was small and in recent years being a groom to both children.

I now work part-time driving a school minibus and in the school exam period, I also carry out agricultural market research.

I have always had a keen interest in young farmers, being county Lady Chairman back in the day and being the current President of Malpas YFC.

Liz McGrath part time pa to lead chaplain

My Name is Liz McGrath and I was brought up on a Dairy Farm in Cheshire. I have been so fortunate to have attended Knutsford Methodist Church all my life, they are like my extended family.

After A levels I went to work as a volunteer for Youth for Christ, working in South Trafford in local primary and secondary schools, churches and running youth clubs. It was challenging work and something that has stayed with me. I joined and got involved in Cheshire Young Farmers and was Secretary and Lady Chairman of Knutsford young farmers. Many of my lifelong friendships were formed there.

Most of my adult life has been involved with Dairy Farming, but unfortunately due to a series of personal circumstances my life has had to take a different turn. So, I have put the administration skills I learnt in young farmers, and as a Parish Clerk to four Parish councils to work and I currently work for a local potato marketing company, as well as undertaking book work for a few local firms.

Sadly, I am no stranger to the difficulties mental health brings, and especially the effect of the challenges faced by the agricultural industry. I have suffered myself, seen it first-hand changing and disabling those I love. Therefore, I want to help, use all the knowledge I have painfully gained to help others navigate their way through the tough times and show them there is light to guide us out of our darkest despair.

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