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Purdue Extension: Creating hope for Hoosier farmers

Fall harvest, one of the busiest and most stressful seasons for farmers, is quickly approaching, which is why the third week in September has historically been recognized as National Farm Safety and Health Week since 1944. This year’s theme, “Every Farmer Counts,” celebrates America’s farmers and ranchers while acknowledging the need to prioritize their safety and health.

Mental health and stress are the areas that the Purdue Extension Farm Stress Team is tackling alongside Indiana farmers.

“Agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations in terms of physical injury and it is also very high in terms of stress and suicide rates. There are so many different variables that a farmer has to control to break even let alone make money. It takes a toll on mental health,” said Andrew Hays, Purdue Extension Health and Human Sciences Educator in Gibson County and a member of the farm stress team.

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“Our team was created to identify what those stresses are and to try to help farmers better cope with those through agriculture information and appropriate stress coping mechanisms.”

The team of Health and Human Science and Agriculture and Natural Resource educators seeks to provide resources and programs aimed to improve the health and well-being of farmers while addressing day-to-day farm stresses and difficulties.

“We want to change the stigma around mental health for farmers. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t strong, but you are in one of the most challenging fields, so of course you will have different stressors. We also want to help build skills that make it easier to reach out to other farmers to see how they are doing,” said Hays.

With the introduction of COVID-19, the team has adapted their workshops to virtual programs and also started a podcast as a way to reach farmers during a stressful season. The podcast, Tools for Today’s Farmers, shares important information, resources and hope for farmers through interviews with agriculture experts and special guests from Purdue University.

“We are using this podcast to get information out to farmers in a timely manner and to share conversations with guests about their own personal stressors and resilience. While it’s important for us to talk about the stress, we always end the podcast with a spirit of hope moving forward.”

Listeners can look forward to upcoming podcasts with Jason Henderson, senior associate dean and director of Purdue Extension, Coach Matt Painter, Purdue Men’s Basketball, and Gary Truitt, Hoosier Ag Today farm broadcaster. Listen to the podcast on SpotifyAnchor FM or Pocket Casts and follow the Purdue Farm Stress Team on Facebook and #FarmStrong.

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