It may officially be fall, but it certainly doesn’t feel or look it quite yet. And while the warm temperatures and green foliage may fool some, we in the agriculture industry know harvest is coming, ready or not. While the rest of the world concerns themselves with pumpkin spice lattes, bonfires and prepping for the holiday season, farmers are prepping for the unknown.
Farm Science Review may have been an enjoyable distraction for some, but it was a stark and dismal reminder of what may be to come for others. The worries are vast, from wondering what kind of yields the season will bring to contemplating where and how to apply for disaster relief funding. The 2019 planting and growing season was not kind to the agriculture industry. From excessive rains and flooded fields to a late summer drought, those who tend the land are left with deep concern regarding whether their crops will yield enough to sustain them in the future. Farmers are going to have to make tough economic decisions that will almost certainly have a long-term impact on the agricultural industry. In fact, 40 Ohio counties have been declared natural disaster areas, including Shelby County.
Though farmers are being presented with additional resources to help with the financial strain of unpredictable crop failure, it is still a very stressful period that can lead to both physical and mental health issues within the farming community. Recognizing a need, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has kicked off the #gotyourback campaign to help farmers deal with the ongoing pressures of daily farm life. Uncooperative weather, long hours working alone and financial pressure, in addition to the everyday stressors of life, can create the perfect storm for a nervous breakdown. Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda agrees that farmers have the weight of the world on their shoulders, especially since they work the entire year, stress the entire year and still run the risk of not getting paid.
The #gotyourback campaign was created to let farmers know they are not alone in their struggles and to give them resources to seek professional, confidential help when stresses on the farm become overwhelming. The campaign works to not only guide those affected to appropriate resources, but also educate them on what chronic stress looks like. From tension headaches, back pains, indigestion and heart palpitations to poor concentration, edginess and overeating, stress can show up in a variety of forms and negative behaviors. The campaign website, GotYourBackOhio.org, also lists information for how family members, friends and the general public can get involved. For example, Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training prepares people to recognize signs of a mental health crisis and suicide and empowers them to intervene and assist. Such intervention can be a life-saving measure, especially during hard times like this year.
#gotyourback is a collaborative partnership among a litany of vested organizations who want the absolute best for Ohio agriculturalists: Ohio Department of Agriculture, The Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, RecoveryOhio, The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, Farm Credit Mid-America, Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, Ohio AgriBusiness Association, Ohio Poultry Association, Ohio Pork Council, Ohio Dairy Producers Association, Ohio Soybean Association and Ohio Sheep Improvement Association.
We here at OSU Extension encourage anyone excessively or unusually stressed to seek resources through the campaign’s website or visit us for additional information. Our door is always open and you are not alone. Even if it’s just to say hello and discuss something other than field conditions, we are happy to have visitors and serve as a place of safety and positivity for our Shelby County farmers.
Switching gears, please save the date for our next Master Gardener Gardening Seminar – Change of Seasons. The program will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Amos Memorial Public Library on Tuesday, Oct. 15. Doug Benson, Master Gardener volunteer coordinator, will present on fall clean-up and prepping for winter. The program is free and offers refreshments and a door prize. Hope to see you there!
The writer can be reached at the OSU Extension office (937-498-7239) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.