Farming is physically and mentally demanding work. There are often long days spent working in solitude. Worries about fluctuating commodity prices, trade issues, increased debt, and severe weather may add layers of stress on agricultural producers. In 2021, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) was awarded $500,000 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to help address farmer mental health and stress in the Commonwealth. VDACS leveraged new and existing partnerships with the organizations below, who received a portion of the grant funds to support and advance their mental health efforts in Virginia’s agricultural communities.
FARMVA’s mission is mediation - providing the opportunity to resolve disputes among producers and lenders or other agencies. With funding from this grant, FARMVA is able to offer credit counseling free of charge for agricultural producers. Representatives are available to talk with farmers to evaluate their current financial position and advise them on credit concerns and opportunities.
AgriSafe is a non-profit organization that builds the competency of health and safety professionals to deliver exceptional occupational agricultural health care and to reduce health disparities in the agricultural community. VDACS has partnered with AgriSafe for a variety of programming.
- AgriStress Helpline for Virginia
1.833.897.2474 - Talk or Text. Comprehensive mental health crisis response with 24/7 coverage and the ability to respond in 160 languages.
Training and professional development opportunity for healthcare professionals to improve agricultural mental health care.
- Cultivating a Healthy Mind℠ Curriculum
A part of AgriSafe’s Invest in Your Health curriculum for agricultural educators, mentors in 4-H and FFA, and others that work with young producers, the Cultivating a Healthy Mind module opens an introductory discussion of mental health among teens and young adults with guidance from an adult educator. This module focuses on decreasing stigma, improving mental health literacy, and positive coping skills for teens and young adults that will last into adulthood.
- QPR for Farmers and Farm Families
Agriculture specific Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training illustrating the current agricultural mental health crisis through story vignettes and moving videos.
Virginia Tech is joined by the Virginia AgrAbility team and Virginia Cooperative Extension to offer training and events for farmers and farm families.
- Farm Safety, Health and Wellness Toolkit
Workshops with small and large group discussions, panels, and role-playing activities addressing how to identify and manage farm stress, ways to improve mental health, and referral strategies.
- Farm Dinner Theater Events
Farm Dinner Theaters use real stories with real farm families to draw attention to mental health and wellness concerns. For information about hosting an event, please contact Dr. Kim Niewolny at email@example.com.
VDACS has partnered with the Virginia Farm Bureau to conduct various activities and trainings and to promote mental health and farmer stress awareness efforts.
At the State Fair of Virginia, VAFB encouraged attendees to write notes and submit drawings showing appreciation for farmers.
- Guest Speaker at 2021 Virginia Farm Bureau Annual Delegate Meeting and Convention
This recent convention featured Nicole Gore with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to discuss farm stress resources.
- Farm Stress, Health, and Wellness and Mental Health First Aid Trainings
These trainings are geared towards organizations and businesses with producer-facing employees, teaching them to recognize the signs of stress and point their farm clients to resources.
The Virginia Farm Bureau will host billboards in rural parts of the state, particularly those with socially disadvantaged populations, to increase awareness of mental health resources and the AgriStress Helpline.
Anna Seymour, MPA
Special Projects Manager
Office of the Commissioner
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