Minnesota is still largely an agricultural and rural state. Once you leave the metro area behind the landscape is one of rolling hills, fields full of crops, and farm animals behind fences. While the physical toll of farming is sometimes mentioned, it does not tell the whole story: It is not only a physically-draining job filled with long hours and never-ending weeks, or months, without a day off, but it’s mentally draining.
My mother grew up on a dairy farm. There are farmers on both sides of my family. I’ve watched them herd cattle, raise sheep and buffalo and more than a few seasons’ worth of crops. And I’ve seen first hand the toll a late freeze or hail storm can have – the stress, the worry, the blame, the breakdown. I know what can happen when a virus wipes out entire barn full of turkey or cattle after long hours of worrying about price-per-head.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has opened a new Farm & Rural Helpline back in October for farmers and rural residents in exactly this regard. This is a completely free and confidential line that is open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The toll-free number is 833-600-2670.
The MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson is all too aware of the mental an emotional toll farming can have on an individual – he was an active farmer during the economic crisis of the 1980s. “I farmed for 24 years, so I’m no stranger to the stress and worry that can be part of farming. I know that sometimes it helps to talk to someone about problems that can seem insurmountable. There is always help available around the corner.”
Those that farm for a lively hood and live in rural communities face unique stresses and emotional situations. With financial struggles, unpredictable weather, physically-demanding work, and so much more all rearing their ugly heads, an open ear can be helpful. As stress piles up, depression, and other mental and emotional issues continue to impact the lives of those individuals that farm and live in rural Minnesota.
The MDA recognizes a need for ongoing support.
The Farm & Rural Helpline can also connect callers with financial assistance programs, health and mental health services, legal help, and more. All calls are confidential, as mentioned, but a first name and phone number may be asked for in the case of a dropped call so they can reconnect with their caller immediately. Translators are also available for all languages in the case that English is a second language.
The line is also open to family and friends of those that might be experiencing an issue with anxiety, depression, or a mental health crisis and are also unsure of what to do.
Farmers and rural Minnesotans can call the toll free number as often as needed at 833-600-2670.