Minnesota Department of Ag offers helpline for stressed farmers

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture unveiled the Farm & Rural Helpline this fall as a resource for Minnesota farmers and rural residents under stress. The free, confidential service is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

While MDA long offered a crisis line to farmers, Meg Moynihan, state programs administrator principal with MDA, said the service was retooled and relaunched as the Farm & Rural Helpline to reach farmers before stress becomes a more serious crisis.

“We don’t want farmers to think they need to have a crisis to ask for help,” she said. “We want farmers to call who are beginning to experience that anxiety, maybe they can’t sleep, so we can begin these conversations before it becomes more serious.”

Moynihan, who is also a dairy farmer, said MDA has heard the concerns from many in the ag community about the rising concerns on the farm today. Factors out of a farmer’s control, like low commodity prices and Mother Nature, are creating an environment of uncertainty. Moynihan hopes the helpline can help farmers through tough times by providing a resource to talk through stressors.

Farmers who dial the toll-free number at 833-600-2670 will speak with a counselor who is trained to ask questions and discuss the unique stresses seen in agriculture. Moynihan said farmers will not be required to offer any personal information beyond voluntarily providing his or her first name and a callback number if disconnected. While counselors will be trained to direct callers to resources for follow-up assistance, their main objective will be to listen to concerns and help farmers find solutions.

“Sometimes there are topics that are tough to discuss with even your spouse, so we want to provide a resource that allows farmers to get things off their chest and discuss concerns,” Moynihan said. “Farmers often feel a huge burden of responsibility, and sometimes just talking is enough.”

Moynihan said all counselors are based in Minnesota and are not part of MDA or another state agency. While each will be prepared to discuss ag-specific sources of stress, they are also trained to help connect farmers to other resources, whether that is legal help, a medical physician or other forms of assistance.

 

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