By Jacqueline Langlois, Stakeholder Affairs Specialist, Environmental Science, Bayer France
It’s the “what ifs” that can keep a farmer up at night. What if it doesn’t rain? What if we get too much rain? What if I don’t get the crop in the ground? These questions are not useless worrying; they are an essential step in proactive and diligent planning. Nonetheless, so much dwelling on the adverse possibilities can take a toll on a person.
Even though agriculture is a close knit community, farming can be a solitary pursuit, with many farmers spending the bulk of their time alone and in very rural settings. Sometimes with solitude, your thoughts can get away from you, and the stress can snowball as the pressures mount.
Knowing the impact that a difficult farming season like 2019 would have in this type of environment, my team at Bayer — the Acceleron seed treatment team — recently launched #FarmStateOfMind, a social outreach initiative to support farmers through mental health awareness. The goals of #FarmStateOfMind are to:
● Break down the stigma surrounding mental health
● Connect farmers to the resources they need
The stress is real
Farmers are tough; and by growing up on a farm and in a rural community, I’ve seen tough my whole life. My dad, who has been farming in Illinois for nearly 40 years, certainly has gained the perspective, from many up and down crop cycles, to be able to step back and see the bigger picture during a year like 2019 and the long term impact that a season like this can have.
It would be naïve to think that any farmer impacted by the historic flooding, trade talks, and other stressors of the 2019 season would not be hurting in some way. Seeing the usual #plant19 updates on the Internet change so quickly to #noplant19, sums up what the year looked like for many in the farming community. And phrases like “we’ll manage” or “it’s just another season” have evolved to questions like “will we get to do this again next year?” or “I don’t know if I can do this anymore.”
Even if 2019 had been more of a typical year, consider these recent farm statistics:
- Farm income has dropped 45 percent over the last five years.
- Corn prices are 2/3 what they were in the 1980s.
- Median farm income has decreased by $1,325 since 2017.
- Trade deals are frequently changing.
- The cost of inputs and land rent continues to increase.
Farm State of Mind
By recognizing what the ag community was going through, and personally feeling the weight of these realities, we wanted to use #FarmStateOfMind to cultivate conversation around farmer mental health and well-being. We wanted to champion a community that is open to conversations about mental health, rather than one that thinks that mental health is not something to be concerned about until it escalates into something more serious.
Through our initiative, which is shared across social media, we wanted to take away the taboo of farmers talking about their state of mind.
Additionally, we realized the resources for mental health in ag communities and rural areas can be fragmented or limited. And some mental health professionals might not fully understand the complexities of farming, so farmers who do reach out for help might feel further isolated and misunderstood. So we wanted to connect farmers and their surrounding communities to tools and support that recognize their specific needs.
Rise Stronger Together
At Bayer our core purpose is Science for a Better Life. Everyone deserves a better life, and this doesn’t exclude our farmers. I’m proud that Bayer’s Acceleron team is committed to being part of the solution and is using our platform to make a difference. Since we have launched the campaign, participation has continued to increase across the ag community.
At the 2019 Farm Progress Show, the country’s largest outdoor farm show, Bayer’s Acceleron team showcased a mosaic wall that allowed farmers to post photos of themselves showing support for one another. It turned out to be a beautiful way for farmers to have a shared voice with us in saying: we see you; we acknowledge what you’re going through; and we’re here to talk and help in any way possible.
So coming back to the “what ifs”… What if we all supported one other? What if we were free to talk about mental health? What if we were there to share our concerns or hardships that can sometimes be overwhelming?
Let’s open up the conversation starting today, and Rise Stronger Together.
Connect to resources:
Follow #FarmStateOfMind on Facebook and Twitter (@acceleron) to join the conversation and show your support.
Additional information, tips and resources can be found at www.AcceleronSAS.com/FarmStateOfMind