The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) first-ever “Down on the Farm: Supporting Farmers in Stressful Times” workshop series recently concluded with more than 450 people from all professional backgrounds attending to learn more about how they can help farmers through stressful times.
Held at six different locations spanning the state, the goal with each session was to help rural area professionals recognize mental and emotional distress in the farming community and employ strategies that help farmers in stressful situations.
Meg Moynihan, senior advisor for strategy and innovation at MDA, declared the first year of the workshops a resounding success. Beyond the attendance, Moynihan said she was most encouraged by the variety of people coming to each workshop.
“The reception was really overwhelming and more than we could have hoped for,” she said. “We didn’t expect so many social workers, clergy, nurses and more would be interested in learning more about this topic.”
Attendees heard from Mental Health Specialist Ted Matthews, who brings years of experience working one-on-one with Minnesota farm families, Randy Willis, who is the deputy director for professional development with the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, and Moynihan, who is a farmer herself in addition to her work with MDA.
Down on the Farm topics included Matthews discussing how to be a good sounding board for farmers who are struggling through the down farm economy and being a resource as they handle stress. Willis, who advices sheriffs on how to best help farmers in rural communities, also spoke about the importance of self-care for professionals who work with farmers in stressful situations.
“We are all often raised to care for others, but we have to take care of ourselves to be able to have the energy to help others. That is an important professional development,” Moynihan said.
In the future, Moynihan said her goal is to create a program that provides communities with the resources to organize their own Down on the Farm workshop. She also hopes to continue to grow the workshops with additional focus on the resources rural professionals can direct farmers to for assistance they may not be able to provide.
In addition to the six workshops, MDA also recently introduced the confidential Minnesota Farm & Rural Helpline available 24/7 at 833-600-2670. The helpline, which you can learn more about here, was launched to reach farmers before stress becomes a more serious crisis.