Farm stress management online resources available

by | Sep 28, 2018

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — It’s a stressful time in agriculture, in almost any direction you turn.
Farm families are feeling the impacts of an inconsistent and unreliable economy; declining incomes, several years of low commodity prices, and increasing costs have worsened debt issues for many operations.
Farmers are facing the decision to parcel off their land, file for bankruptcy, and take secondary jobs off the farm to provide supplemental income.
The University of Maryland Extension last month launched a new web page devoted to assisting farm families in dealing with stress management through difficult economic times.
The Farm Stress Management website, located at, was released in conjunction with National Suicide Prevention week on Sept. 9-15.
It is a set interdisciplinary resources to help farmers navigate the numerous publications online and provide timely, science-based education and information to support prosperous farms and healthy farm families.
Farmers have a deep connection with the land they farm and if that’s lost, it can be hard emotionally, said Dr. Jon Moyle, University of Maryland Extension poultry specialist.
“They’ve known that farm their whole life, before they met their spouse even,” he said.
While it’s often touted for it’s stability in cash flow and year-round income, commercial poultry farming is not without stress.
Moyle said the industry’s trend to production without antibiotics has increased bird mortality rates and for longtime growers who are not accustomed to losing as many birds, it has an effect.
“We’re seeing more stress symptoms in our growers,” he said. “Our older generations, it seems to me, they’re more stressed about it.”
With so much out of a growers’ control from weather or the spread of disease, Moyle said the loss of farm assets, as some farmers in the Carolinas have experienced from Hurricane Florence, can carry an even greater weight.
“When you feel helpless and you’re watching your stuff go away, it’s tough,” he said.
Access to affordable and effective health insurance and care is one of the top concerns among farmers who are often self-employed.
Providing health insurance, disability coverage, and planning for retirement and long-term future care have also proven problematic.
In fact, in a USDA-funded study, 45 percent of farmers were concerned that they would have to sell some or all of their farm to address health-related costs.
The new web pages — split into three categories: financial resources, stress management and legal resources — offer information on how to manage farm stress through a variety of subject areas including financial management, legal aid, mediation, stress and health management, and crisis resources for families dealing with depression substance abuse, mental health concerns.
“There’s a lot of different things from around the country. We can’t reinvent the wheel but we can point out what’s available.”
Moyle said the web site resources are helpful but looking out for one another, already a hallmark of the farming community, is perhaps the best way to work through stressful situations.
“I think we all just need to work together. You know who your friends are, keep an eye on them,” Moyle said. “It’s what we should be doing anyway.”

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