Episode Description: Farming and ranching can be overwhelming at times. That's why Minnesota, along with other states, have a Farm Advocate program to help farmers maneuver through the current farm economy. "It's going to be okay, we're going to figure out what we need to do," says Steve Zenk, farm advocate. "In some situations you might not be able to do what you're doing now, but we should be able to move you forward somehow." Zenk encourages farmers to be proactive. "Get on top of this, don't wait." That may mean having a frank conversation with your lender. "If you're going to be short, communication is important. Just go in and have a visit." Hear more from Zenk in this edition of TransFARMation.
Even during the best of times, farming is a stressful business. TransFARMation highlights the need for conversation and openness around farm stress and mental health. Listen to the series below.
Published November 11, 2019
Episode Description: Bryan and Sarah Klabunde farm in Minnesota’s Mahnomen County. Bryan is vice president of Minnesota Farmers Union and Sarah is a nurse and mental health advocate. The pair participated in a recent safeTALK training hosted by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Department of Health. The goal of this half-day workshop is to prevent suicides in our ag communities. In this edition of TransFARMation, Bryan and Sarah share their experience and offers insight into dealing with a very stressful harvest season.
Published October 28, 2019
Episode Description: With low commodity markets and continued harvest delays, farm stress is a reality. Do you know a farmer or rancher who is struggling? Bishop Bill Tesch of the Northwestern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America says it's time for straight talk. "Get past the price of corn and soybeans, right? Get to how's it really going and if you think someone is really in trouble don't be afraid to ask the hard questions." There is an acronym Bishop Tesch likes to share: ACE - Ask, Care, Escort. "Ask the question, offer care and escort or help them get to the services they need." Hear more from Tesch in this episode of TransFARMation.
Published October 14, 2019
Episode Description: Mark Koehn is nearing the end of his second career as an agricultural appraiser for Stearns County in central Minnesota. Koehn started farming right out of high school in 1973. Low prices, bad weather and medical bills combined to be a big challenge. "Like most guys when things get tough, our first instinct is to work harder so instead of 12-to-14 hour days, I was working 18-plus hours a day." Koehn said the family was struggling financially, emotionally and physically. As a result, the fourth-generation farmer reluctantly sat down with his 96-year old grandfather and explained the situation. Grandpa understood. "He said, Mark, if your horse is dead, get off it; it is not going to get you to town." In the mid-90s, Koehn left the farm to work as an ag appraiser. "There can be actual rewarding second careers. Some may be in the ag community and some may be outside of it." Koehn is now seeing farmers under stress and encourages them to keep their lines of communication open with family and friends. Hear more from Koehn in this episode of TransFARMation.
Published September 30, 2019
Episode Description: Farmers and ranchers are enduring a tough time in agriculture. Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen can see signs of farm stress every day in certain sectors. "Farmers are in the fifth year of a downturn economy and it's eating into their equity. There are a lot of farmers struggling financially," says Petersen. That is taking a toll on farm country. Petersen is fielding calls from farmers and ranchers looking for answers. "One of the first things I do is ask if they've talked to a farm advocate and go from there." Hear from Petersen in this TransFARMation episode.
Published September 13, 2019
Episode Description: One of the most stressful situations for farm families is the transition of passing that farm from one generation to the next. Russ Tweiten focuses on succession planning for AgCountry Farm Credit Services. It can be difficult to hand over the reins. "Farmers who went through the 1980s know what it's like to struggle and don't want to turn the farm over and lose it," says Tweiten. "Give it some time and allow senior farmers to work their way out." To be successful in the transition process, communication is key. "The thing I sometimes tell people is don't let your shop be the Las Vegas of the farm. It should be shared and talked to with the rest of the family." Hear more from Tweiten in this episode of TransFARMation.
Published August 26, 2019
Episode Description: Women on the farm face a unique set of stressors. Not only are they actively engaged in the farm business, but they also have vital roles in the household and with the family. Brenda Mack and Shauna Reitmeier are featured in this edition of TransFARMation. Brenda is an assistant professor at Bemidji State University and is a mental health consultant. She grew up on a farm at East Grand Forks, Minnesota and is married to a Crookston farmer. Shauna is the head of the Northwestern Mental Health Center at Crookston and was also raised on a farm. In the TransFARMation podcast, Mack said we need the ability to say no. “Oftentimes as women, we’re asked to do things in the community or church or in the family. We feel guilty for not saying yes. We’re helpers and we know it needs to get done; it is okay to say no.” There may be signals when farm stress becomes overwhelming for family or friends. “People don’t show up at different activities or the farm is looking a little more disheveled, it gives us an awareness to start asking questions,” said Reitmeier. “Be there as support, not with judgement.” Brenda and Shauna co-host the Cultivating Resiliency webinars, which are available on the American Agri-Women website https://americanagriwomen.org/.
Published August 12, 2019
Episode Description: Doug Bichler, who ranches at Linton, North Dakota, was in a farm accident two years ago while baleing hay. Before Doug even thought about what he was doing, he reached over to pull out a stray piece of net wrap. "One of the belts must have grabbed my hand. Before I knew it, I was getting pulled in." His life changed in an instant. While Doug lost his entire right arm as a result of the accident, he continues to ranch today. That is helped out by a positive attitude. "Obviously having one arm is a challenge. There are days I do get frustrated. But, I've come up with different ways to accomplish tasks and am doing just about everything I was doing before." Doug has learned a lot since the accident and says a big source of anxiety can be comparing yourself to others. "It seems like there is this constant competition we put ourselves in and that's a dangerous place to be. You just have to focus on what you're doing and do the best you can."
Published July 29, 2019
Episode Description: Mary Nell Preisler has been involved in the Minnesota Farmer-Lender Mediation Program since the farm crisis of the 1980s and now serves as the statewide coordinator. A farmer in debt has the opportunity to renegotiate, restructure or resolve debt through mediation. "It seems to me that sometimes people are just paralyzed; they don't know which way to turn," says Preisler. As a neutral party, the mediator can facilitate open communication and help resolve financial differences. You can learn more in this edition of TransFARMation.
Published July 15, 2019
Episode Description: One of the biggest sources of stress in agriculture is transitioning the farm from one generation to the next. Farmer, author and speaker Jolene Brown encourages farmers to operate as a business-first family. “What that means is you honor the family so much, you will do the business right,” says Brown. “When you start operating as a business and get some management tools into place, you’re more productive, profitable and have some piece of mind.” Relationships and communication are are important, especially for those in family-based businesses like farming. “Farmers are superior at weeds and seeds, machinery and money, but they can be crappy with people. So make sure there is a leader who understands they’re in the people business.” You can hear more from Jolene in this episode of TransFARMation.