Farm Stress Management and Resources for Maryland Service Providers

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $96,645.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2023
Grant Recipient: University of Maryland
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Shannon Dill
University of Maryland

Information Products

OES Fact Sheet (Fact Sheet)
Creating a Farm Stress Extension Program (Peer-reviewed Journal Article)


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, focus group, networking, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, budgets/cost and returns, financial management, risk management
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, quality of life, social networks, social psychological indicators

    Proposal abstract:

    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.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    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.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.