Maybe relieving stress and improving mental health in agriculture isn’t a subject that will make you explode with excitement, but the problem in agriculture today is a reality no one can afford to ignore. That’s why several of Indiana’s young ag leaders have banded together to offer a one-day symposium called Healing the Heartland.
The event is officially sponsored by the Indiana AgriInstitute. It’s slated for Sept. 10 at the Farm Bureau Building at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, beginning at 8 a.m. EDT and concluding at 4 p.m. See below for cost and registration information.
The Indiana AgriInstitute is best known for training the state’s ag leaders through two-year leadership programs. The 18th class is now over halfway through their two-year training. One part of the program requires members to work together on projects that will make a difference in their communities, notes Beth Archer, executive director of the Indiana AgriInstitute.
“The class members who came up with this idea and put together the program deserve all the credit,” Archer says. “I could not be prouder of them. It’s a topic which needs to be addressed, and they have put together a program and format to make that possible.”
Class members involved in planning Healing the Heartland and the companies they represent include Meggie Foster with CountryMark, Jackie Barber with Elanco, Somula Schwoeppe with the Feeding America program and Schwoeppe Dairy, Sarah Wagler with Nutrient Management Partners, Jeff Cummins with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, and Kyle Shipman with the Indiana Board of Animal Health.
Sarah Wagler, Nashville, Ind., and her husband, Justin, operate Nutrient Management Partners, a custom manure application business, primarily for dairy and swine manure. They also sell equipment related to the manure application industry. Sarah didn’t initiate the idea for the program, but she got onboard to assist when the topic hit home.
“We’ve all heard about people struggling with stress due to tough economic times and this challenging season,” she says. “When you get a text from a friend who is in that place, it makes it very real. Then I knew it wasn’t just a vague topic — it was affecting me, too. That’s when I decided to join my classmates who were already working to pull a program together.
“My husband and I don’t farm directly, but since our business is so closely related, we go through the ups and downs with the weather and prices just like producers do. We can certainly understand the struggles.”
Sarah realizes a one-day program isn’t going to solve everyone’s problems. “We hope this will start conversations,” she says. “It will give us a place where we can all sit down and talk about this together.
“Purdue Extension, ag companies and ag commodity groups are beginning to do things related to mental health and stress, and it will be good to share ideas and learn what everyone else is doing. Maybe we can come up with ideas on how to help people which we might not think of on our own. What we’re looking for is the synergy you can get by having a group of people talking about this topic together.”
If you want to be part of the conversation on Sept. 10, registration is $35 per person. Space is limited, so organizers recommend registering soon. To learn more or to register, visit healingtheheartland.org.