Problem and Justification
University of Maryland Extension (UME) is concerned and sensitive to the current stress level of farm families as it relates to their well-being and the viability of the farm. Sustained distress affects a farmer’s ability to cope, make sound decisions, and adopt new practices associated with their health, finances, regulatory, and production practices. Reports from the USDA, popular press, Centers for Disease Control, farm nonprofits, and universities recognize that farmers and farm families are experiencing high levels of stress, mental health, and even suicide. Locally, agricultural service providers are aware of this situation as they meet with farm families. Agricultural service providers are a trusted resource for farmers yet lack the skills and training to support their clientele on this personal issue.
Solution and Approach
Service providers do not have training or skills in the health and wellness field. This training is not meant to teach counseling but to educate service providers on how to be a first responder in a sensitive and often uncomfortable situation. By gaining skills to identify stress and have a conversation with farmers, service providers will be better prepared to work with individuals and families who are experiencing high levels of stress. Providers will gain the ability to effectively communicate about stress, analyze situations, provide resources and suggest solutions. The approach for this educational program will be through webinars, face-to-face workshops, online content and a statewide forum. Moderated discussion groups will continue the conversation, provide ongoing support, and share new resources. A self-study online module will be created for new employees who missed the face to face training can, at minimum, gain awareness of the issue and knowledge of resources.
Milestones and Performance Target
This project will educate 150 agriculture service providers about farm stress, mental health, communication techniques, available resources, and financial risk management. Project milestones will include a preliminary statewide forum for agencies to discuss rural health and resources, followed by five statewide trainings annually, and three annual webinars. Additionally, the project will create a list-serve of participants and an online discussion group to provide up to date information and resources. The current website will be enhanced as fact sheets, videos and resources are created and shared. Learning objectives for the training are: Understanding the impact of stress on our bodies; Confidence to identify signs and symptoms of stress; Confidence communicating with someone with stress; Understanding warning signs of suicide; Promoting mental health resources for farm families; Creating personal and farm finance goals; Managing farm financial statements; Promoting legal resources for farm families; and Negotiating contracts and debt management. Ninety agricultural service providers will communicate with farm families and educate 1350 farmers about these topics.
Ninety agricultural service providers will communicate with farm families and educate 1350 farmers about the resources and tools in the area of mental health and wellness. These service providers will also educate farmers in the areas of personal and farm finance goals, farm financial statements, legal resources for farm families and negotiating contracts and debt management resources.
University of Maryland Extension (UME) has hosted a statewide forum and cosponsored four workshops on communicating and managing farm stress for agriculture stakeholders. Attendees reporting intending to use the gained knowledge to support farmers but also requested the workshop to be offered to agriculture service providers.
A recent survey of UME winter production workshops participants, (517 farmers and agriculture professionals) found that 43% reported higher stress levels than last year and 34.7% reported high levels of stress (7 and higher out of the 1-10 scale). The respondents reported financial (52%) and regulatory (41%) aspects of farming contribute the most to their stress. Not properly addressing high levels of stress can lead to a number of health issues.
Sustained stress affect farmers’ ability to cope and make decisions to adopt agricultural, financial, and legal practices to address their situations. By providing comprehensive training for agriculture service providers the proposed project will increase knowledge and skills in understanding and managing stress, communicating and providing resources for farmers under stress, and providing financial and legal management to address stressors Providing farmers with ways to manage stress, the proposed project will provide solutions to sustain economically farms through these stressful times.
Project Report 1
Due to UME COVID 19 restrictions in person meetings have not been conducted. The team created a webpage, short video and press release to announce the program. There is interest in moving forward with a virtual forum and online classes.
Conduct a fall (2020) forum for service providers and agencies to discuss farm stress and rural health – 1 day in Annapolis, MD. Attend forum and provide discussion. Gain knowledge and sharing of the current farm and rural health situation and sharing of resources and materials available within and outside the state.
COVID 19 impacted our ability to meet in person and stalled the work plan. The team has met multiple times and has a plan in place. We will be meeting with the advisory group in January and conducting an online forum in March 2021. Following that online workshops will be planned and conducted with the hopes that inperson sessions will follow.
Conduct 5 statewide trainings annually for service providers – Western, Central, Southern, Upper Shore, Lower Shore (10 total - 5 training (2020-2021), 5 training (2021-2022)). (150 service providers * estimated 60% plan to share * 15 farmers each (based on service provider survey see beneficiaries and their interest section) = 1350 farmers. Attend face to face workshops, provide a certificate of completion. Gain ability to identify stress, symptoms of stress, communicate with someone experiencing stress, warning signs, resources including mental health, financial goals, debt management, regulatory and contract negotiations.
Service providers will participate in follow up webinars – 3 each year (6 total). Web-based follow up to the face-to-face trainings. Focus on ability to identify stress, symptoms of stress, communicate with someone experiencing stress, warning signs, resources including mental health, financial goals, debt management, regulatory and contract negotiations.
Service providers will access online materials and resources including a proposed online discussion group to continue conversation, share resources and share experiences. 600 Individuals (website hits will be measured). Reference website, find additional resources, and stay connected to the discussion and issue of farm stress management. 6/30/2022 and beyond
Service providers will include information on their website, advertisements and/or articles in their newsletters distributed to farmers, farm families and other clientele. 10 organizations will share with lists of 1,000+ individuals. Print and web-based media. Share knowledge learned to other providers, farmers and partners.
Selfpaced, online module will be created in year 2 as curriculum and workshops are completed. This will provide training materials for professional development and new employee onboarding. 10 organizations will use the webbased module for training.
Performance Target Outcomes
Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers
90 agricultural service providers will communicate with farm families and educate 1350 farmers about the resources and tools in the area of mental health and wellness. These service providers will also educate farmers in the areas of personal and farm finance goals, farm financial statements, legal resources for farm families and negotiating contracts and debt management resources.
Additional Project Outcomes
The project team created an introductory video about the project.