ADAMS COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) — Mental health for farmers has been a focus for the Purdue Extension Office for a number of years now, and they say the pandemic has only intensified their efforts.
Farming is not like a typical day job. According to Adams County Purdue Extension Educator Rachel Dillhoff, for many farmers, it’s literally their life’s work.
“Generations and families live and breath it day in and day out, and it’s that livelihood that you have to continue on that legacy and it’s a lot of extra pressure,” said Dillhoff.
Among that extra pressure are many variables that can’t be controlled. That includes things like market prices, farm policy, and weather conditions. Often, the workday allows for a lot of time for those stressors to weigh down the mind.
“Farming is such an isolating career,” said Abby Heidenreich, Agriculture and Natural Resources Extention Educator for Orange County. “Farmers will spend eight to 12 hours a day in a tractor cab by themselves. And when you’re alone with your thoughts for that long. It’s amazing how some of these things, especially the things that are out of our control can magnify and really take a toll on our mental, emotional health.”
Heidenreich said many cases of this have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“There’s a study that was done by the American Farm Bureau Federation that says that farm farmers and farmworkers are 10% more likely than we’re all adults to experience feeling nervous, anxious or on edge during COVID-19,” said Heidenreich. “Everybody was really stressed out throughout COVID-19 But it really took an extra toll on farmers, because we were seeing a lot of shortages, we were seeing excesses in other areas.
The Purdue Extension is hoping to cut through some of the alone time by reaching farmers through their podcast Tools for Today’s Farmers.
“We interview people in the ag industry and talk about their experiences and stress in hopes to create connections between farmers and the ag industry,” Heidenreich said.
The podcast features agriculture industry professionals at every level. The goal is to show that these feelings and experiences can be felt by people at every corner of the industry.
“We hope people can take away from that and say, oh my goodness, this, this is more common,” Dillhoff said. “Even the people on the top that you think have everything together, they are still stressed out too it’s normal to experience that and it’s good to hear from those individuals of ways that they can cope with that stress.”