If you have ever listened to radio broadcaster Paul Harvey’s “So God Made a Farmer” speech that was given at the 1978 National FFA convention, it’s easy to understand that farmers are more than just, well, farmers. They wear many hats to ensure the success of their operation, and their duties range from being a mechanic to an accountant.

A lot of responsibility lies on the shoulders of a farmer. Perhaps this is why we expect these hard-working folks to be tough and resilient because, according to society, they can handle any curveball that life throws their way. Behind closed doors, this may not be the case. In a recent webinar hosted by the National Milk Producers Federation, Kristie Guffrey, Michael Rosmann, and Jessica Cabrera helped viewers understand how to navigate stress within the agriculture industry and what we can do to help.

The stress that farmers face on a day-to-day basis has shed more concern on their mental well-being. Generally, with an “I can do it myself” attitude, Guffrey declared that culture has labeled ag industry workers as independent, resilient, hardheaded, and stubborn, and there is this idea that they need to be okay all the time. Although this may have some truth to it, many people do not express their feelings or work through their emotions in fear of burdening the people around them. It is important to remember that farmers are people, too.

Since the 1980s farm crisis, there have been fewer suicides reported, but the agriculture workplace is still where suicides are more likely to occur, Rosmann noted. Although it is difficult to eliminate the human from the dairy, it is important to be on the lookout for any signals that may indicate stress or cries for help. Loss of interest, dramatic threats, isolation, sleeping issues, and deterioration in personal appearance may be warning signs that there are underlying issues. It is especially important to look for signs during busy seasons that add stress, such as planting and harvest.

How can we help each other? Look for signs of stress. If you yourself are experiencing these symptoms, consider talking to someone you trust, engage in recreational activities, spend time outdoors or away from the farm, meditate, or even interact with pets. “We humans need social supports, just as animals need herdmates,” recommended Rosmann.

There are many counseling services and anonymous hotlines for farmers available. Cabrera recommended utilizing The American Farm Bureau “Farm State of Mind” website, which provides farmers with helpful tips, videos, peer-to-peer support, and even a searchable national resource directory. If you know someone who is experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression, Cabrera stated, “It’s better to ask than not do anything.”

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
June 17, 2024
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