Farming is tough in a good year, and 2019 has not been a good year.
The Fulton County OSU Extension office is hosting a two-part program, tomorrow, Thursday, called “Weathering the Storm in Agriculture” to aid both farmers and ag professionals in navigating the stresses that come with this type of year.
Karen VonDeylen, of the Maumee Valley Guidance Center and chair of the Four County Suicide Prevention Coalition, said, “People who live in rural areas are already at a higher risk for suicide, and agricultural communities are the highest risk.
“Especially given this farming season with the wet weather, we want to make sure people know there is help available.”
This year “was and continues to be a stressful year for agricultural producers– for farmers,” said Eric Richer, Fulton County OSU Extension agent.
“Our county planted 41% of our corn, and… about 77% of our beans.
“In Fulton County, big planting days were June 8, June 12, and the last week of June. There were maybe two or three suitable days prior to that, but none of those days were in May. That’s unprecedented.
“Our optimal planting window is the first two weeks of May. Generally, guys are hoping to be planting the first 10 days of May.”
“We’ve had excellent crops up through Memorial Day weekend, but that’s 30 days earlier than we started this year.
“In 2019, guys were dealing with– depending on rainfall and if they even planted– a 45- to 60-day delay in their normal planting timeframe. That in itself is nerve-wracking if you’re a farmer.
“From a financial perspective, we actually think 2019 is going to be okay. It could be average for some guys, or a little bit less than that.
“To a degree, they’re used to that– those ups and downs.”
“We’ll probably replicate this exact program in the middle of winter, because I think the stress is going to come in flights,” Richer said.
The purpose of the program is to help those who work with farmers be aware of the signs and symptoms of stress and then lead the farmers to the next steps.
The first half of the day, starting at 9 am, targets agriculture professionals.
“Lenders, insurance agents, grain elevator operators who see farmers walk in the door– or don’t walk in the door in this case, or when they walk in the door and don’t have grain to sell but they’re there in the doldrums,” Richer said.
“Handling stress is not new, but maybe this persistent stressful year– with regard to emotional, physical, and financial stress that is currently happening– will certainly carry into 2020, if not a year or two beyond that, just because of 2019.”
The evening session, starting at 5 pm, is for farmers.
“It’s not often that we in the agricultural community reach out for help,” VonDeylen said. “There’s almost an embarrassment or guilt involved.”
“We’re really going to be focusing on seeing and recognizing it in others, helping people know what to look for, what to pay attention to.
“We want people to notice that someone is struggling. Right now, we’re just wanting people to start having that conversation.
“Sometimes knowing that they’re not alone, that there are people out there who can help, makes a huge difference.”
“We’re very fortunate in this county to have the ADAMhS board located (near) Archbold. They’re helping promote (the program) and they’re going to be available to discuss the next level of service,” Richer said.
“I want to be sure people know that it’s okay to reach out. I want to break down that stigma. It’s okay to talk about these things. Help is available,” VonDeylen said.