COVID-19 and Farmer Stress

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There has been talk through the media about dumping milk, meat shortages and produce waste because of the impact coronavirus has had on our industry. Livestock and row crops are all over this part of the state and many of our producers are having to make changes in their normal routines. They are still committed 24/7, 100% to providing safe food for our country.

While it may not be hard for our farmers to “social distance,” since they were on farms and in rural areas to begin with, it has become increasingly more lonely. Stress was always an accepted part of farming–you stress about the weather, you stress about the equipment, you stress about commodity prices. None of which you can do anything about! Unfortunately COVID-19 has added another stress on top of that–economically and emotionally.

Farmers are now concerned with keeping their families healthy, growing the crops and livestock needed to feed the country, and wondering how they are going to sell that product. They’re out in fields and barns, often without sick pay or time off, trying to make ends meet. The past few years have been tough and this pandemic may cause the loss of farms that were barely holding on. These may be row crop farmers who have the farm in the family for generations, local produce farmers who don’t have the labor to harvest their perishable product, or livestock farmers who can’t get a decent price for their animals and may not be able to get animals through the processing plant in time.

Please be aware of the stress farmers are under, and look for signs that producers are succumbing to that stress. Changes in physical health, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, anxiety, and depression are all warning signs that someone may be facing an existential crisis and may need help.

In order to help your loved ones, farmers or otherwise, cope with some of this stress make sure they are physically taking care of themselves (eating, getting the nutrition they need, staying active), mentally accepting that there is a pandemic and they just have to set priorities and realistic goals, and emotionally that they are handling these stressful thoughts, and talking to someone they trust!

While you should be concerned about those who are sick, those who are out of a job completely, I encourage you to think about the farmers in your area. Think about the stresses they are undergoing and make sure you support them any way you can (buying directly, offering a hand, supporting them in the political realm). This pandemic has impacted and changed everyone’s lives…the American farmer was not spared.

Farm Stress Resources

The North Carolina Agromedicine Institute – a partnership between NC State University, East Carolina University and North Carolina A&T State University – is working to target farm stress and provide farmers with resources to help them tackle issues of anxiety or depression.

Find a list of resources for folks experiencing farm stress on the N.C. Agromedicine Institute’s “Tape and Twine” website, where they provide a Farmer Stress Resource Directory among other tools.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 741741 to the Crisis Text Line if needed.