Milk Maid

Minnesota Department of Agriculture starts new helpline

At the top of my list of all-time favorite things are baby calves.

They are cute, fun and always put a smile on my face. I love watching them grow and I love seeing physical and personality traits that they inherit from their parents and ancestors.

Just like humans, they inherit those traits and it’s really fun to see. I believe that every new life is special, healthy calves are always a blessing and welcoming new calves into the herd never gets old. Last week, we were excited for our show heifer Diamond to have her first calf.

I was excited to meet her new little man until I realized something was wrong. We tried to save him and make him comfortable, but unfortunately he was born with a defect and he passed away shortly after birth.

I hate losing calves.

There’s no sugar coating it, I was really upset.

You wait nine months for a new calf and when they are still born or pass away shortly after, it really sucks. Most dairy farmers I know are the most optimistic people around.

Both sides of my family are no exception. I was always taught to try to think positive. We still have Diamond and she is healthy. There is always next year to get a calf from Diamond.

This is just a small reality that farmers deal with.

Some people are able to handle the certain stresses better than others and every situation is different. Sick animals, low commodity prices, drought or too much rain, late harvest and financial stress are just some things farmers deal with everyday.

The number of suicides among farmers and farm workers in the United States has remained stubbornly high since the end of the 1980s farm crisis, much higher than workers in many other industries, according to a new 2017 study from the University of Iowa.

The study examined suicides and homicides among farmers and agricultural workers across the country from 1992 to 2010 and found 230 farmers committed suicide during that time, an annual suicide rate that ranged from 0.36 per 100,000 farmers to 0.95 per 100,000.

The rate is well above that of workers in all other occupations, which never exceeded 0.19 per 100,000 during the same time period. Minnesota is trying to do something about it. A new Farm & Rural Helpline is now available to Minnesota farmers and rural residents.

The service, funded by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), is free, confidential, and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As stress, anxiety, depression, financial burdens, and other mental and emotional issues continue to impact the lives of farmers and rural Minnesotans, the MDA recognized the need for ongoing support.

“I farmed for 24 years, so I’m no stranger to the stress and worry that can be part of farming,” said MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson.

“I know that sometimes it helps to talk to someone about problems that can seem insurmountable. There is always help available around the corner.”

As an active farmer during the economic crisis of the 1980s, Commissioner Frederickson experienced first-hand the emotional toll farming can take on individuals and families.

He also knows that resources are available in Minnesota to families navigating the unique challenges facing farmers on a daily basis. The Farm & Rural Helpline can connect callers to financial assistance programs, health and mental health services, legal help, and more.

Calls are confidential, but counselors may ask for a first name and phone number in case of a dropped call. Translation services are also available, with translators available in all languages.

The Farm & Rural Helpline is also available to those unsure of what to do about family or friends who may be experiencing anxiety, depression, or a mental health crisis.

This program is unique to Minnesota. The State of New York has a similar helpline available to their farmers and rural citizens. This new program is receiving positive feedback from across Minnesota and the United States.

Minnesota Senator Al Franken said on his Twitter page, “I applaud Minnesota agriculture for creating helpline to increase access to mental health services in rural communities.”

Stressful situations aren’t going away anytime soon, especially with our late harvest. Spread the word about this program and don’t be afraid to reach out if you have a loved one in need or you just need someone to talk to.

Farmers and rural Minnesotans can call the toll free number as often as needed at (833) 600-2670.

Brittany Moorse

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