Low commodity prices, inclement weather, crop or livestock disease and many other factors can cause farmers and ranchers a great deal of stress.
To combat stressful times in Minnesota agriculture, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is trying to do something about it.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) will offer “Down on the Farm: Supporting Farmers in Stressful Times” trainings in January.
The professional development workshop will be offered in six different cities across Minnesota; it is designed to help people who work with farmers on a regular basis recognize and respond when they see farmers experiencing stress, anxiety, depression and other challenges.
The target audience can include farmers, farm family members, bankers, farm agency staff members, lawyers, accountants, feed and seed salesmen, doctors, clergy, veterinarians and anyone else who interacts with farmers on a regular basis.
“I farmed for over 20 years and know firsthand the toll that stress and anxiety can take on your well-being,” said Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson.
“Farmers are notoriously self-reliant, but sometimes the number of things they have to deal with simultaneously becomes overwhelming. We designed these workshops to help professionals respond to farmers’ unique stresses,” added Frederickson.
The three-hour workshops are free and will be held at both 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in these locations:
Tuesday, January 30 - Willmar, Ridgewater College
Wednesday, January 31 - Marshall, Southwest Minnesota State University
The main presenter will be Ted Matthews, a psychologist who has worked with farmers and farm families statewide for more than 20 years and has led several state and federal crisis response efforts. Randy Willis from the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, Michele Page from the Farm Service Agency in Minnesota, and Meg Moynihan from the MDA (who is also a dairy farmer) will join Matthews to deliver the training.
Participants will learn to recognize signs of mental and emotional distress and crisis, use active listening skills, and find local and regional resources available to farmers, and will improve their confidence in delivering difficult information to farmers in stressful situations. Continuing education credits are available.
For immediate help, Minnesota farmers and rural residents who need financial guidance or emotional guidance have a place to go: The Farm and Rural Helpline.
The MDA launched the service this fall. One guest speaker at the upcoming training, Meg Moynihan, spearheaded the helpline. The helpline is answered by trained counselors who can help immediately and can refer rural Minnesotans to other resources, such as finance experts or health professionals in the caller’s area.
It is available 24 hours a day and is a free service. The free and confidential line is open not only to people facing problems themselves, but can take calls from friends and family of rural residents who appear to be troubled.
Moynihan said callers can be anonymous or may give counselors their telephone numbers for return calls.
Counselors can refer callers to other resources that could provide help.
Registration is now open at www.mdadownonthefarm.eventbrite.com.
For more information, including a printable workshop brochure, visit www.mda.state.mn.us/protecting/farmsafety.aspx or call 651-201-6012.
To call the Farm & Rural helpline, call (833) 600-2670.