family picking apples
Photo: Shutterstock

By Lindsey Mebane, President, Kern County Young Farmers & Ranchers

Lindsey Mebane
Lindsey Mebane

Over the past two years of writing the articles for this segment, I have learned a lot. At first, I thought this would just be a place to let you all know what the YF&R group was up to. I never used it as a platform to share messages other than meeting updates. Halfway into my second year as president, I realized the power that I had with this, and I can’t believe it took me that long to figure it out. I’ve had more people compliment me on my articles than ever before—mind you I am not an accomplished writer. Before, I had no clue how many people read what I wrote. I have always tried to shed a positive light on agriculture as we know and love it. Getting to share my story and passion for agriculture has been very rewarding.

This month I want to touch on something kind of heavy, but it has been weighing on my heart. Mental health is a growing issue among agriculturalists. A 2019 survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation revealed that the largest issues of mental health in our agriculture communities were financial stress (91%), business problems (88%), and the fear of losing the farm (87%). These struggles have only increased due to the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems that farmers and ranchers are always under constant stress since many factors that affect their livelihood are completely outside of their control.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has partnered with RFD-TV to produce a one-hour episode called “Rural America Live” that’s goal is to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and share resources related to farm stress and farmer mental health. The episode features Zippy Duvall who is the AFBF President along with Farm Credit Council President Todd Van Hoose, and National Farmers Union President Rob Larew. In the episode President Duvall states” as a third-generation farmer, I know how heavy the stress of farm life can weigh on a family. Farmers from around the country have shared painful stories of missed warning signs and loved ones lost. Now COVID-19 has the entire country at its most vulnerable on so many levels. American Farm Bureau is committed to giving farmers and ranchers the resources they need to reach out if they are struggling or to help family and friends in need of mental health support.” The health initiative they launched is called “Farm State of Mind,” which also includes the “Rural Resilience Training Program.” The programs are free and give people the skills to understand stress, learn warning signs, and so much more.

Farmers and ranchers are some of the toughest people you will ever encounter. It takes a lot to put seeds in the ground, invest thousands of dollars in purchasing livestock, trees, equipment, and fertilizer, and trust that one day those investments will pay off, not to mention keeping food on the table and a roof over the family’s head. There is so much pressure in keeping agriculture going and for some continuing on family traditions and generational operations. We can’t rub a magic lamp and see the economy turn around, but we can be aware of how this all might be affecting our family, neighbors, and friends. “If more of us acknowledge it’s a problem – and there is no shame in admitting it – then we can begin to help ourselves and each other,” said AFBF President Duvall.

Hardheaded farmers and ranchers are not used to admitting they need help or want to ask for it. I feel that it is up to all of us to check in on our farmer and rancher friends during these times to make sure they are okay. Looking for warning signs can truly save a life. Be an ear to listen and steer someone to a doctor or even the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255). I have heard stories of people from the Farm Bureau family who have lost loved ones to suicide, and one story is one story too many. We can do our part to help, but it is going to take all of us. There isn’t a challenge too big for American farmers and ranchers. We will take every challenge and overcome it, that is just how we are in this industry. I pray for peace to those who have lost loved ones but have hope for those struggling, that we can pull through because I know there are better days ahead.

As always thank you for reading my article. It really means a lot when people tell me that they follow along each month. The next article will be exciting because we should hopefully have a new officer team to announce for the 2021 year. Stay tuned!