Episode Description: Agriculture is a stressful business, but that has certainly intensified during COVID-19. South Dakota State University Extension mental health specialist Andrea Bjornestad says the pandemic has definitely increased stress levels. "It adds more stress on top of what agricultural producers are experiencing over time. They are facing financial difficulties with closures and market prices." Parents have also had to determine childcare or home school their children. However, there is some positive news coming from the situation. "The more we talk about it (mental health), the more likely people will think that they're not alone." Hear more from Bjornestad in the latest TransFARMation podcast.
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. It is also available for download on iTunes, Spotify and on your favorite podcast app in the Google Play store.
Published August 17, 2020
Episode Description: Clarissa, Minnesota dairy farmer Patrick Lunemann has his own personal experience with the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, the Long Prairie community in Todd County was experiencing a high number of cases. "We did have a couple of confirmed cases at our dairy farm. I believe it was more than just those two and I believe I had it," explains Lunemann. "I didn't get a test, but I had the same symptoms at the same time as the two that tested positive. Therefore, I went through the appropriate quarantining practices." It is difficult to work through the COVID-19 crisis, Lunemann adds. Getting the works done was a challenge, especially since labor is generally a challenge in agriculture. "When we're milking basically around the clock, you need people to fill those shifts. Losing even a couple people creates a big hole in the schedule. It was not easy." Hear more from Lunemann in the latest TransFARMation episode.
Published August 3, 2020
Episode Description: Coping with coronavirus is a reality for everyone. Hallock, Minnesota farmer Erik Younggren says this pandemic impacts the entire family. "My oldest child is nine years old and the two other girls are six. They haven't seen most of their friends since March. I guess we'll see what happens this fall with school," says Younggren. "They are growing up not having all those social interactions they need." On the farm, Younggren is concerned about labor. There is a lot of planning that never was an issue before. "The biggest challenge for us will be sugarbeet harvest. How do we handle things like sanitizing trucks, the regiment at the piles and just managing a lot of people?"
Published July 20, 2020
Episode Description: It is easy to burnt out, especially in this COVID-19 world. Family farm coach Elaine Froese encourages farmers and ranchers to consider the roles they have in life. "How are you practicing self care," asks Froese. "How well are you taking care of your marriage? How are you nurturing your family? For examples, there has certainly been great stress on families have children home from school." To avoid burnout, Elaine has a simple strategy. "On our farm in Manitoba, Canada, we actually don't work on Sundays. People think that is weird, but for us it works because it gives us much needed downtime and family time. At the end of the day, our work still gets done during the week." Find out more from Froese in the latest TransFARMation podcast, found here.
Published June 22, 2020
Episode Description: From low commodity prices to weather extremes, there are so many things coming at farmers and ranchers right now in the world of agriculture. North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring says there also are milestones that should be celebrated each season. "Although the work is never done, we have incremental victories here and there. You get equipment ready. You get planting done. You get spraying done. You get harvest done. At some point it all comes together." Goehring goes on to say these small victories make them feel like they've accomplished something. Farmers and rancher are truly the enteral optimists and realists. "There are things to celebrate in agriculture. That helps," explains Goehring. "It's like when you finish calving. When that last heifer or cow drops her calf it's a sigh of relief. A lot of worry goes away." Hear more from Goehring in the latest TransFARMation podcast.
Published June 8, 2020
Episode Description: The weather, markets, coronavirus; these are all things that can crank up anxiety levels. Oak Ridge Teletherapy therapist Cynthie Christensen likes to think of anxiety as an emotion of the future. "Typically when we feel anxious, it's because of those 'what if' thoughts. During this time we usually don't think about the good stuff like a bountiful harvest," she says. "That can really get you stirred up and create a lot of fear." Christensen says the first step is to recognize you're thinking about stuff that is too far forward that can't be predicted. "Bring those thoughts back. What can you do today? What do you have control over right now?" In some cases, a farmer or rancher may need help controlling these thoughts. "There is a stigma associated with therapy and no one wants to be seen as crazy. But really it's more about managing symptoms." Cynthie offers more advice about handling stressful times in this TransFARMation episode.
Published May 18, 2020
Episode Description: Lake Benton, Minnesota farmer Bob Worth was a 'young gun' when he began farming 50 years ago until the farm crisis of the 1980s hit, taking its toll. As a result, he went in to a severe case of depression. "It was so bad I didn't even care if I got out of bed. Even if harvest was there, I didn't care; it (the crop) could stay there." Bob's wife convinced him to go see a doctor. "I'm glad she did. The doctor put be on some medicine and diagnosed me with severe depression." As a past president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, Bob has been vocal about his experience with depression. There are some similarities between the 1980s and the tough farm economy of today. "Six or seven years ago, we were flying as high as agriculture has ever flew. We were making good money and never though it could end. Well, guess what, it does end and that's a lot of the shock." Worth sees some of his fellows farmers struggling today and tries to get them to open up. He leaves listeners with this piece of advice. "Communication is so important, especially during times of stress." Hear more in the latest TransFARMation podcast found above.
Published May 4, 2020
Episode Description: Animal agriculture is dealing with an unprecedented situation with processing plant slowdowns and closures. During this difficult time, Minnesota Pork Board President JoDee Haala, who also serves as director of public affairs at Christensen Farms, says it's important to communicate with your peers. "Rely on the network of people you have who are also going through the same thing you are. It is uncomfortable to talk about if you are struggling financially on the farm, but there are a lot of friendly people out there in agriculture that just want to help." Haala goes on to say that's what makes agriculture so great; open ears and support for one another. With hogs backing up in the system, those farmers are making the difficult decision to euthanize animals. "It is absolutely a time of grieving. When you get up and think about everything you do, you make food for human consumption that is being turned to waste when people are hungry. That's heavy." Hear more from JoDee in the latest TransFARMation podcast episode here.
Published April 20, 2020
Episode Description: The coronavirus outbreak has impacted everyone. When it comes to farmers and ranchers, University of Minnesota Rural Stress Task Force Director Emily Krekelberg says COVID-19 has been devastating for the markets. "That is stressing an already stressed population," Krekelberg explains. That stress is being compounded by uncertainty. "I don't think anyone is immune to that (stress). We all are feeling the pressure from it in some way, shape or form." Coping strategies are critical. That's why it's important to connect with family and friends, especially during this time of social distancing. There are three aspects to wellness: physical, mental and emotional. "A lot of things we can do to take care of ourselves really touches on two or all three of those aspects. I remind people all the time that self care is not selfish. It's little things done everyday to make sure we are well." Hear more from Emily in the latest TransFARMation podcast episode.
Published March 30, 2020
Episode Description: Thomas Duden, who farms in east central Minnesota, has been fighting a battle with depression over the past two years. Thomas says accepting the fact you have depression is hard; asking for help is even harder. It has taken a while for him to open up, but Duden's biggest piece of advice is to just keep talking. "It's not easy. If you can find someone that is easy to talk to and can trust, talk to them because I shut completely down." Thomas's wife Kristin adds there is no shame in asking for help from a professional. "Know that you're not alone and that there are so many more people also struggling," she says. "I definitely give kudos to anyone that goes out and gets help. That has really been a silver lining for Thomas." Hear more from the Dudens in this TransFARMation podcast episode.