PITTSBORO, N.C. — Farmers certainly don’t need reminding of the stressors that come with the job. However rewarding, the farming lifestyle often brings a compounding mental load that can be difficult to deal with. Fortunately, the stigmas around mental health and farm stress are breaking down, and farmers don’t have to deal with it alone.
In recent years, opportunities and spaces have been created for farmers to get much-needed help. There are loads of resources to support producers’ physical health, but programs to support mental health are just as critical.
To provide a new resource for farmers in South Carolina, SC Farm Bureau is now offering access to a new program called AgriWellness. Available to farmers and their families in the comfort of their own homes, SC AgriWellness offers three counseling sessions free of charge.
“Offering this incredibly important resource to South Carolina farmers was a top priority for us,” said SC Farm Bureau President Harry Ott. “All too often, our rural communities don’t have access to mental health services, so we wanted to provide a way for farmers to get the help they need. The professionals at First Sun EAP received specialized training from Clemson Extension, so they are familiar with the unique challenges and pressures that farmers deal with on a daily basis.”
While this new program is specific to South Carolina, there are a number of similar programs available for North Carolina farmers and their families as well. N.C. Agromedicine Institute has compiled a list of these resources here.
Another great resource is available through Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA, which offers a crisis hotline for farmers. When crises begin piling up, one of the most important things farmers can do is reach out for help as soon as possible. RAFI-USA’s hotline is designed to be a type of rapid-response available for farmers who need to talk to someone on short notice.
“Farming is a challenging job that can easily be impacted by factors beyond farmers’ control,” said Lisa Misch of RAFI-USA. “Anything from crop failure, natural disasters, market price changes, or family emergencies could lead to a farm crisis. If you are in crisis and need someone to talk to, please call us toll-free at (866) 586-6746. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.”
It’s important to acknowledge that it’s impossible to eliminate all stress in any job, but effective management is possible. During the last few decades, researchers have learned how successful farmers and families effectively manage their stress by discussing their management methods with them.
In addition to the new therapeutic resources featured above, mental health experts have recommended several tips to farmers dealing with farm stress. Pursuing a healthy diet, staying active, cultivating social support, and getting enough sleep are all great steps toward protecting your mental health.
Farming can be a rewarding, challenging, thrilling, and trying profession, and you owe it to yourself to take care of yourself!
–Matt Kneece, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association