Understanding Farm Stress

By Theresa Kuplic on July 15, 2020

Ethical Food and Agriculture

As I was reflecting on how the world has changed in the last few months, and the new stresses we are encountering, I am particularly moved by the enormous stress that our agricultural workers and food producers are experiencing at this time in history.

I recently concluded a literary review on the economic stresses on farmers and ranchers associated with the global market and climate change. It is clear that keeping up with this changing world has had devastating affects on the emotional, mental and physical health of our farmers and ranchers across the world. Suicide rates in places like Australia, China, India and the U.S. are frightening. According to the CDC, suicide rates for farmers and ranchers in the U.S. are one and a half times higher than the national average.

One of the studies identified eight factors that contributed to farmer stress. These factors were: high workload, incertitude to the future because of financial markets, agricultural legislation, physical isolation, debt, relationships, unpredictable weather and fear of not being able to pass on the family farm to heirs (Truchot 2017). Much of the research suggests that the possibility of losing your land, or losing your ”sense of place” has become a central concept in the analysis of the cultural, personal and mental health risks associated with these economic stresses. For farmers, losing your land is devastating. Farming or ranching isn’t just your job. It is your home, your family, your history and your vocation.

Results from a survey taken by 172 farmers from five Midwestern states in the U.S. showed that social support from friends and family was important in the prevention of depressive symptoms among farmers and agricultural workers (Bjornestad et al., 2019). This important mitigating factor should not be overlooked.

We as friends and family should continue to pray for those we know who are doing the vital work of producing our food. We should reach out whenever we can and encourage each other to gather to pray. We will need God’s wisdom. Consider joining or starting a Life in Christ group in your community or parish, or get involved in your parish and gather with others to pray to seek God’s wisdom. I often find myself praying Psalm 25: 4-5, “Make known to me your ways Oh Lord and teach me your paths, guide me in your truth for you are my savior and for you I wait all the day long.”

– Theresa Kuplic is a key presenter at the CRL Life in Christ lay leadership retreats. Theresa was raised in rural Iowa and currently lives with her husband in the Twin Cities, MN.

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