Extension Steps Up to Help Farmers with Pressures of Farming
Farming is a stressful profession, filled with unique challenges that can take a toll on one’s mental health. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many farming communities in New Hampshire faced significant challenges such as depression, which affects one out of five farmers nationally.
To raise awareness and provide resources for farmers that address the root causes of mental health, and provide tools and techniques to assist farmers in addressing mental health issues, UNH Extension’s Seth Wilner teamed up with Gail McWIlliam-Jellie and Commissioner Shawn Jasper from the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food to apply for and receive a $500,000 USDA-NIFA State Department of Agriculture Farmer, Rancher Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) grant.
These monies will be used to support education, help offset costs for therapists, tax accountants, lawyers, financial consultants, and other agricultural service providers, and also to develop a resource library. The resource library will contain legal podcasts and tip sheets, helpful calculators and other relevant tools and materials. Resources will be housed on the websites of UNH Extension and the NH Farm Bureau.
“This program has the ability to provide help that can address many of the stressors farmers face in these challenging times," said Commissioner Jasper. “We are hopeful that farmers will reach out and seek assistance to meet their needs. We are grateful to all the partnering organizations and vendors for their help in the upcoming year. Working together, we know we will make a significant difference and improve farmers’ wellbeing.”
The State Dept. of Agriculture FRSAN grant adds to the existing efforts of field specialists Seth Wilner, Olivia Saunders and Elaina Enzien. These educators are working with eight others as part of another farmer mental health initiative funded by the National Young Farmers Coalition titled Farmer, Rancher Stress Assistance Network – Northeast (FRSAN-NE). This New Hampshire cohort started close to two years ago and will be pivotal in helping to implement the newly acquired grant.
A multitude of outreach channels such as social media, radio, print media and direct farmer outreach will be used to help farmers and agricultural service providers expand their knowledge of mental health, address root causes and receive support.