Helping Farms and Communities De-stress

Article written by Leigh Presley, Agriculture Extension Educator. 
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

I spent last Saturday at the Farm Aid festival in East Troy, working under the white tents of the Homegrown Village, a space dedicated to interactive exhibits focused on food and farming.

Before the gates opened, I worried that the rain might dampen attendance and enthusiasm. But as thousands of excited festival goers streamed in decked out in full rain gear and makeshift trash bag ponchos, I realized people were in it for the long haul.

As the day progressed, I met people from all over the state and country – most were there to show their support of family farms; the music was a bonus. Rain couldn’t stem the flow of people and positive energy. Farm Aid came to Wisconsin this year for a reason — to bring awareness to the challenges and financial stress our farmers are facing, especially in the dairy industry. The festival presented an opportunity for farmers and non-farmers alike to gather, drink, eat, dance, and above all, de-stress. Farm Aid 2019 came and went, yet many of the stressors that farm families face remain. Low prices, debt, wet weather, high health care costs, and market uncertainty can’t be solved by a music festival. How can farmers and rural communities cope with the current reality and find resiliency?

Extension resources Extension has created a new web-based resource, fyi.extension.wisc.edu/farmstress.

The website is a starting point to help farmers, families, businesses and communities remain resilient by learning how to manage stress by recognizing and working to positively address, not avoid, the causes of stress. Maintaining physical and mental health is one way to reduce stress levels – eating healthy, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and simply engaging with others are great ways to keep stress at bay.

Other actions, such as planning and education, can help minimize ambiguity and confusion that often contributes to stress. In agriculture right now, these types of actions can help restore a sense of hope and control.

The Farm Stress website provides several planning tools to help make sound business decisions and create a road-map for the future. For some farms, that future likely includes some sort of transition — to the next generation, out of the current industry, or into another sector of agriculture. Extension offers several opportunities to help with these transitions, from succession planning workshops to the upcoming Resilient Farms Conference, a one-day conference that helps farmers explore alternative enterprises and create a plan for resiliency (find out more at www.compeer.com/Home/Educational-Opportunities/Events/InPerson-Events/Resilient-Farms-Conference). Ways to support farmers

If you missed Farm Aid, but still feel inclined to show your appreciation for Wisconsin farmers during a particularly stressful time, consider supporting them by purchasing local farm products at the farmers market or contributing to state and local organizations that support farmers and future farmers such as the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Foundation, the Wisconsin Farmers Union Foundation, the Fondy Food Center, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, or youth groups like FFA or 4-H.