In a small corner of the Yorkshire Dales, a friendly flock of chickens is saving lives.
With Easter just around the corner, Nikki Brady spoke to former Leeds businessman Jonathan Greenwood about his move to the countryside and how he’s turned fresh eggs and an Instagram account into hundreds of pounds for Yorkshire Cancer Research.
For thousands of years, eggs have symbolised new life and rebirth.
So it’s fitting that former businessman Jonathan Greenwood, 50, has found new purpose in giving away his chickens’ freshly-laid offerings in return for donations to Yorkshire Cancer Research.
This time last year, Jonathan was living near Leeds and making a daily commute. He’d worked in and around the city centre for more than 10 years, and for a long time believed this was the life he was destined for.
But the daily routine had taken its toll. After employing a life coach, Jonathan realised he’d been suffering from depression for a very long time.
In 2008, Jonathan’s mother-in-law died from bowel cancer. Looking back, he pinpoints this as the trigger that led to the decline of his mental health.
Just four years later, Jonathan’s father Keith died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 72.
Jonathan with dog, Vina.
“I hadn’t realised how much their deaths had affected me. The life coach very quickly spotted signs of depression. I recognised I was deeply unhappy and I needed to make a huge change,” he explains.
In October last year, Jonathan made the brave decision to relocate to Leyburn, a small market town in Wensleydale, and work from home.
With Penhill rising majestically in the view from his living room window and chickens roaming free in the garden, the idyllic Yorkshire lifestyle Jonathan now leads is an existence people across the world dream of.
“I moved with only a coffee pot and a blow up bed,” he admits. “I’d always wanted chickens as a child, so buying a coop was one of the first things I did. I just love them. They’re so friendly, and each one has their own personality.”
Jonathan fell so in love with his chickens that he gave them all names, including ‘Meatloaf’ and ‘Benedict’. When his happy hens began laying more eggs than he could consume, he saw a fundraising opportunity.
Jonathan says: “There’s a local volunteer group based in Leyburn which raises money for Yorkshire Cancer Research. As soon as I moved in I was introduced to the charity and invited along to a coffee morning.
“I’d always wanted to do something as a thank you for the treatment and care my dad received. Everywhere you go there’s somebody shaking a charity box. I wanted to do something different. I decided to give the eggs away for free in return for donations, and I’m amazed by how well it’s been received.”
Not long after Jonathan moved to Leyburn, his aunt was diagnosed with cancer in her throat and passed away just five weeks later on Jonathan’s 50th birthday. This made Jonathan even more determined to raise as much as possible for new research and services in Yorkshire.
To help his eggs along, Jonathan decided to set up an Instagram account. He now posts daily on the social media channel, allowing users a unique insight into his ‘new life in operation’. More than 1,600 people now follow his account, and some travel far and wide to pick up a box of his now legendary eggs.
Freshly laid eggs from Jonathan's brood.
Jonathan’s fundraising total currently stands at more than £500 after just three months. He matches every donation made with money from his own pocket.
“I’ve got lots of other fundraising ideas up my sleeve, and they’re all about celebrating local produce and the benefits of living out in the countryside. Now I’d rather spend all my time raising money for Yorkshire Cancer Research than making money for myself.”
When he first moved to Leyburn Jonathan didn’t know anyone, but he’s since made lots of new friends. He’s immersed himself in the community, joining the East Witton Male Voice Choir – a pastime his dad also enjoyed - and getting to know the local farmers and businessmen.
Jonathan is equally passionate about helping the Instagram community. He now blogs about his depression, sharing his experiences with cancer and inspiring others to make changes to their lives.
His healthy eating videos and blogs are also a firm favourite with his followers, who enjoy watching him cook new recipes in his kitchen. He’s even vowed to give up alcohol until Easter.
“If I can help one person feel better about themselves then I’m happy,” Jonathan says. “I know what it’s like to hate waking up every morning. I also know what it’s like when people you love are diagnosed with cancer. I want to start conversations on Instagram so people feel less alone. So much more needs to be done to support family members and friends.”
To follow Jonathan on Instagram, visit www.instagram.com/yorkshiredales.life.
Nikki Brady, Senior PR Officer, Yorkshire Cancer Research. Tel: 01423 877228. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
- Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England (Registered Charity 516898). We are not part of a national charity.
- We are committed to reducing the devastating impact of cancer on the lives of people living in Yorkshire.
- Our mission is to work in partnership, fund research and support initiatives that will help people in Yorkshire avoid, survive and cope with cancer.
- Current statistics show that 583 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week. Incidence and mortality rates are higher than the England average due to social deprivation, post-industrialisation and lifestyle choices but also availability of healthcare services and difficulties accessing early diagnostics, clinical trials and the latest treatments.
- We aim to:
- Be the leading authority on cancer in Yorkshire, understanding the problems and priorities in the region and sharing knowledge with partners.
- Raise awareness of cancer and how to prevent it by working in local communities, schools and colleges, sports clubs and with other health-related organisations.
- Promote screening programmes and fund research that can improve the diagnosis of cancer so we can detect and treat it at the earliest opportunity.
- Invest in innovative research projects at every stage of a cancer patient's journey.
- For further information, please visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.