Farmers deal with many circumstances that are completely out of their control. From the weather to regulations, taxes, broken equipment, and more, it can have a toll on mental health.
In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, the National Young Farmers Coalition is celebrating its partnership with Cultivemos, a network for farmer and farmworker well-being in the Northeast.
The 2022 National Young Farmer Survey found that young and black, indigenous, and other people of color (or BIPOC) farmers face massive structural barriers that impact mental health. These include struggling to find secure land access, personal and family healthcare costs, and finding and maintaining affordable housing. Additionally, farmers are especially vulnerable to the increasing impacts of the climate crisis, with 73.3 percent of young farmers responding that they have experienced at least one climate impact in the past five years.
Speaking to the toll farming can take on mental health, a land steward in a recent listening session shared, “I’m currently starting a farming project and I’m worried about being burnt out in five years. I’m unable to see how you can be successful at farming without running yourself into the ground.” Stress in agricultural communities can lead to poor decision-making, a higher risk of physical injury on farms, farmer attrition, and a risk of suicide.
The 2018 Farm Bill funded Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Networks — one in each of the country’s four regions — to bring together agricultural service providers with the shared goal to improve wellness and mental health in agricultural communities. In the Northeast, Farm Aid, Farm First, National Young Farmers Coalition, Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust, Migrant Clinicians Network, and University of Maine Cooperative Extension collaboratively received this funding, referred to as Cultivemos. The network provides training, resources, peer networking, and a hotline for farmers under stress, driven by core values such as racial equity.
Cultivemos takes a three-part approach to mental health support. First, the network aims to make structural changes. In addition to direct mental health support, the Network addresses root causes of farm stress, including land access, chemical contamination, and inequities. Second, the network focuses its efforts on vulnerable populations disproportionately impacted and harmed by root causes of farm stress: BIPOC farmers, farmworkers, and young farmers.
Finally, the network regrants fund to cohorts of agricultural service providers to complete projects that address farm stress in the communities they serve. In the first year of the grant, Cultivemos included 90+ organizations across the Northeast, trained 500 people in topics ranging from mental health to language justice in agricultural communities, and the network’s hotline supported 120 callers from the Northeast.
»Related: The invisible yoke of mental health on the farm