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NATIONAL YOUNG FARMERS COALITION

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Young Farmers joins American Farmland Trust, Farm Aid, and Climate Mental Health Network for discussion on Farmer Mental Health in a Changing Climate

Are you a farmer looking for support for farm stress or other mental health challenges? Our partners at Farm Aid manage a 24-hour hotline. Whether you are a beginning or established farmer, you can call their Farmer Hotline at 1-800-FARM-AID. Their Farmer Services team can point you towards helpful resources that match your needs. 

Si necesita hablar con el equipo de servicios directamente, llámenos al 1-800-FARM-AID (1-800-327-6243). La línea directa en español está disponible de lunes a viernes de 9am – 5pm hora del este; 6am – 2pm hora pacifico.

 


 

In May, as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, Carolina Mueller, Young Farmers’ Coalition Associate Director, joined Lian Zeitz of the Climate Mental Health Network and Caitlin Arnold Stephano of Farm Aid for an American Farmland Trust-hosted conversation on farmer mental health in a changing climate. The “Free Range Conversation®” aimed to bring attention to the emotional well-being of the farmers and service providers in our ecosystem, and how they have been, and continue to be, impacted by the climate crisis. A recording of the conversation can be found here

In the most recent National Young Farmer Survey, 73.3% of young farmers reported experiencing a climate impact on their farms in the past five years, such as rising temperatures or changing precipitation patterns. As climate change intensifies, farmers and farmers of color in particular find themselves on the frontlines. Natural disasters, unpredictable weather events, and other climate impacts only amplify the stress and mental health challenges farmers face in an already risky and high stress career. 

Arnold Stephano noted that climate disasters are happening more frequently and with more intensity. “Farmers are experiencing these impacts every day on their farms, even in areas they believed would be ‘safe’ from climate impacts,” she said. Farmers who may have learned how to start farming 10-15 years ago, are already finding that the skills and techniques they learned aren’t applicable to their land and climate anymore in this changing climate. “Farmers can’t pick up and move their operations as conditions change, they’re having to learn and adapt on a daily basis–an incredibly stressful endeavor on top of an already high stress, and rapidly changing career,” she added. 

Zeitz shared that farmers who may have existing mental health challenges, are finding them amplified by climate challenges, including record breaking heat. He noted that “there is a direct correlation between extreme heat and mental unwellness.” Farmers and farmworkers are directly exposed to these environmental stresses and there have traditionally been limited mental health resources and support, as well as some existing stigma around reaching out for mental health support when needed. Farmworkers also face additional powerlessness in the workplace, including exclusion from basic worker protections, which contributes to stress, anxiety, and trauma.

Mueller shared about the impacts of winter storm Uri on her farming community in central Texas in 2021. She described walking around with her partner after the storm and calculating the financial losses the storm had caused on their farm: “As a small farmer, walking around and realizing you’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars of product–it was catastrophic, and it is happening everywhere–we’re seeing floods, derechos, wildfires…there is so much you cannot control as a producer and you don’t get paid more for your product after an event like this. It is an economic crisis in addition to a climate crisis.” 

How are mental health challenges related to climate change different from other mental health challenges, and why is it important that we address climate mental health explicitly?  Arnold Stephano pointed out that for many farmers, disasters that end their season can threaten their business, housing, livelihood, and communities in one fell swoop, which can be completely overwhelming. Losing livestock is also an especially painful impact–ranchers and livestock farmers hold responsibility for many lives, and can emotionally take on the weight of loss even if the climate event was out of their control. 

Mueller added that so much of what happens in a natural disaster is completely out of a farmer’s control, and there’s often no safety net. Whole Farm Revenue is often not accessible for smaller producers and it can feel like there’s no one to help in times of emergency. Vegetable farmers are considered “specialty crop farmers,” and are not always eligible for insurance, especially small-scale and young farmers. “We’re letting farmers crash and burn,” said Mueller. “Do we want to assume that farmers can just pick themselves back up disaster after disaster?”

To address some of these challenges, Young Farmers joined several partner organizations across the northeast in 2022 to launch “Cultivemos,” a network for cultivating farmer well-being. Cultivemos is a branch of the national Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), funded by the 2018 Farm Bill, which works to build and equip an inclusive network of service providers dedicated to advancing the mental, emotional, social, and financial health of agricultural producers, workers, and their families.

Cultivemos starts by taking a structural approach to farmer stress by addressing larger systematic issues that can lead to stress, such as forever chemical contamination, land access, and systemic inequities. Second, Cultivemos focuses on communities disproportionately harmed and disempowered by these structural issues, namely farmers who identify as Black, Indigenous, and other People of color (BIPOC), farmworkers, and young farmers. Finally, Cultivemos aims to address structural root causes and impact marginalized ag communities by regranting funds. Groups of ag service providers, farmers, and farmworkers come together within Cultivemos to form cohorts based on a common geographic area, a community of practice, or an affinity group. Cohorts function as communities of practice among Cultivemos Network Members to connect, identify areas for impacting ag communities, and apply for project funds to develop training and resources, analyze best practices, or deepen their networks.

 

Some examples of resources and communities created by these cohorts include

Learn more about the Cultivemos network and how you can get involved at www.cultivemos.org

 


Other Climate Mental Health Resources

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