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Digging into a farmer’s state of mindDigging into a farmer’s state of mind

Ag company offers free online mental health resources for producers who are feeling stressed.

Mindy Ward

August 26, 2019

3 Min Read
silhouette of farmer holding stems by tractor
STRESSFUL TIMES: Floods, devastation and commodity prices are taking a toll on farmers' mindsets this year. Agriculture industry leaders are offering resources to help them cope.Tim Wright/Getty Images

Within a 24-hour day, a farmer may spend seven of those hours sleeping, perhaps three hours interacting with family at breakfast, lunch or dinner, and a couple more hours watching a kid’s sporting event in the evening. That leaves 12 hours to think about the troubles bearing down on his or her operation, often while alone.

Their mind circles around topics such as floods, crop conditions, trade wars and commodity prices. All of these accumulate into financial stressors that are affecting farmers' mental health.

A poll from the American Farm Bureau Federation showed 91% of farmers agree that financial concerns are weighing on their mental state. For many, 87%, it is the fear of losing the farm.

Overall, 48% reported more stress this year than last year. However, the number climbs to 57% for younger farmers, ages 35 to 44.

Continuing the conversation

A.J. Hohmann understands the pressures put on farmers. As Bayer U.S. marketing manager for Acceleron, he works with farmers across the country. “Farmers don’t like to admit when they are having problems, let alone share them with others,” he says.

Hohmann grew up in a small bedroom community where when faced with adversity, he was told “to be tough and rub dirt on it.”

“But mental health is not something we just suck up,” he explains. “It is a serious issue our industry is facing today. Times are tougher than they have been in a while in agriculture. Our farmers and ranchers may need help overcoming mental stressors. There is no shame in that.”

The conversation around mental health in the heartland started during Mental Health Month in May. But Hohmann says the issue should be discussed year-round. “We need to provide opportunities for farmers and ranchers to talk about how they are doing on a regular basis,” he says.

So, the company started a Twitter and Facebook campaign — #FarmStateOfMind — in hopes of opening the dialog with farmers and ranchers around the issue of mental health.

“It is an open forum where folks can tell their story, share their experiences and realize there are those going through the same issues. They are right there with you. You are not alone,” Hohmann says. He encourages individuals to use this social media platform and offer support.

Help for the hurting

Already farmers are stepping up by providing reminders about taking a step back from stress.

And others, even outside of agriculture, are offering encouragement.

In July, as part of the initiative, Acceleron created a website connecting the farming community with the resources and relief they may need. This is especially beneficial for those who aren’t comfortable speaking to a loved one about their mental health.

Still, Hohmann encourages farmers and ranchers to not be weighed down by fear. Reach out to family members, clergy or even random strangers in a coffee shop to talk, he says. “Just talk to someone. Get it off your chest.”

The more individuals talk about stress, the more those struggling will know they are not alone. With social media and the website, Hohmann hopes it can help erase the stigma surrounding mental health and cultivate a conversation of understanding and empathy.

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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