Being a farmer is tough.

Facing the day-to-day struggles of that way of life, whether it be the weather or prices, can weigh heavy on those involved.

Others have recognized that reality, and professionals have made themselves available for those producers whose job it is to feed the world to ensure their physical, as well as mental health, is being addressed.

The reality is farmers are considered to be “too strong” to need any of that kind of help, and so admitting the pressures of life are causing unhealthy levels of stress is just not something they do.

So, they bury it. 

That is not healthy, and that is what has led to the fact that farming has produced one of the highest rates of suicide.

Addressing farming in challenging times was a topic for discussion earlier this month at Farmfest when a panel of experts from various government agencies and farm groups talked about everything from financial resources to mental health advocates who are available to offer advice or at times just to talk about challenges they face.

Current commodity prices for corn and soybeans have posed a significant challenge for producers. As of Aug. 29 when this edition went to print the price for a bushel of beans was $7.47 and the price for a bushel of corn was $3.05.

“The numbers look bad,” said David Bau of the University of Minnesota Extension Service, adding producers continue to see the potential for loss simply because they can’t make the price being offered cash flow with their farming inputs.

“When prices were good a few years ago, the cost of everything else went up, too,” said Ted Matthews, who works for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture as the director of mental health services. “Then when the prices went down, their costs went down a little but just not enough.”

For Mathews the phone is consistently ringing, as farmers who learn about him start to call. He estimated he receives eight to 10 calls per day, and sometimes the number is closer to 25.

“A lot of them are five to 10 minute questions,” Matthews said, adding, however, there are also times when he feels the need to make the drive to visit the farmer face to face.

Matthews said as far as he knows he is the only mental health director being offered for farmers across the United States, which means he is also in high demand when it comes to answering questions of those who are also looking to find answers for farmers who are facing a mental health crisis.

There had been some debate in the Minnesota legislature about providing additional funding to increase the MDA mental health program, but Matthew said that bill was vetoed. Making the mental health of farmers a political issue is something Matthews said is concerning, and he is hopeful that something more can be done.

– Read more about farming and the stresses they face in an upcoming edition of the Redwood Gazette.