Article Summary: Farmer well-being is often overlooked, yet it is a crucial factor in the success of any farm. A farmer's physical and mental health directly impacts their ability to manage their farm effectively and make informed decisions. It is well-known that farmers are more likely to commit suicide than other professions. In this blog, we will explore why farmer well-being is so important, its’ causes, the implications of ignoring it, and what you can do to support yourself and your workers. Because you matter.
Farming is a high-pressure, 24/7 occupation without paid annual leave compared to almost all other professions. As a farmer, you face increasingly volatile market pressures, the risk of livestock disease, and the impacts of catastrophic weather events like drought and excessive rainfall. That's not even including the aftereffects of the pandemic—labour shortages, increased demand, and even political involvement in exports and production. A combination of these has the potential to decimate livelihoods completely and is a reality for most farming businesses.
Farmer well-being is often overlooked, yet it is a crucial factor in the success of any farm. A farmer's physical and mental health directly impacts their ability to manage their farm effectively and make informed decisions. In this blog, we will explore why farmer well-being is so important and the implications of ignoring it.
The confronting data surrounding farming and mental health
It is well-known that farmers are more likely to commit suicide than other professions.
A poll conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) found that 61% of farmers and agricultural workers said they experienced more mental health challenges and stress in 2021 compared to 2020, with research indicating that they may also have an elevated risk of suicide.
The overall prevalence of mental illness in Australia is broadly aligned in rural and urban Australia. Still, suicide rates are considerably higher in rural areas, particularly among younger men, older men, and Indigenous people. Many of these are farmers or agricultural workers. In New Zealand, the story is similar.
Why the mental health of farmers is a concern
First and foremost, farmer well-being affects the quality of your farm's products. When you are stressed, tired, or not feeling your best, it is much more difficult to attend to your crops and livestock needs. This can result in reduced yields, lower-quality products, and increased losses. In contrast, a farmer who is well-rested, healthy, and happy is better equipped to provide the care and attention their farm needs to thrive.
Another reason farmer well-being is vital for farm success is that it impacts the overall efficiency of your farm. When you are not feeling your best, your decision-making abilities can be impaired, and you may struggle to keep up with the job's physical demands. This can result in delays, inefficiencies, and mistakes that can be costly for your farm.
Farmer well-being also has a significant impact on your workforce. When workers are not well, it can create a toxic work environment, detrimental to the morale and productivity of employees. On the other hand, a positive, supportive work environment can result in higher job satisfaction, increased motivation, and improved collaboration among employees.
It is also important to consider the financial implications of ignoring farmer well-being. The costs of medical treatment decreased productivity, and potential legal issues that can arise from neglecting farmer health can quickly add up. By investing in the well-being of you and your farm staff, you can improve your bottom line by reducing these costs and increasing productivity.
What is causing mental health issues in the farming industry?
Farming brings numerous stressors and a sense of isolation, making farmers more susceptible to depression and anxiety than other groups. Tragically, suicide rates are alarmingly high in rural farming communities, particularly in Australia.
Farmers' mental health may be affected by:
the pressures of overseeing a farming business
changing market conditions
natural disasters like droughts, bushfires & floods
difficulty finding and keeping good workers
family & relationship problems
The solitude and loneliness of farming can take a toll on a person's mental health, causing feelings of hopelessness and even thoughts of suicide. Many farmers spend extended periods working alone, with little opportunity for human interaction. This isolation can leave them without support and make it difficult for others to recognise the symptoms of mental illness.
Additionally, rural settings tend to be more traditional than more progressive metropolitan environments, and with it, an inclination to avoid talking about personal struggles with loved ones or professionals. By not seeking help, depression worsens, and the chances of suicide climb.
US-based research also suggests that pesticides, which agricultural workers breathe in and absorb through their skin when applied to crops, have neurological effects, which can dramatically increase the likelihood of depression. Farmers also typically have easy access to potentially lethal equipment and farming machinery.
The odds can often feel like they're stacked against you. But it's not all bad news.
What is the farming industry doing to improve farmer well-being?
Many established national farming bodies offer resources to help support farmers, like DairyNZ. Their Farmer Well-being page contains information and advice about avoiding burnout, farmer stories, practical tips for staying well, and getting help. They also offer a podcast with episodes including tools for coping with farm stress.
Similarly, Safework New South Wales offers a comparable resource for farmers and those working in agriculture, including warning signs, stories and videos, with advice on how to help others you feel are experiencing anxiety or depression.
How Pasture.io is working with farmers to improve their well-being
Farming is a tough gig, and Pasture.io places this issue at the top of our priorities. We're motivated by the desire to alleviate the hardships faced by farmers. Your challenges drive us to work harder and be passionate about what we do.
The core of our success lies in our commitment to supporting you. We approach on-farm problems from your viewpoint, focusing on improving your health and well-being. It's humbling to know that our services are reaching farmers globally and alleviating stress, pressures and workloads.
In short, when you work with us, you get a revolutionary satellite and AI-led platform to make your farming life easier and a dedicated team of like-minded experts here to help and guide you every step of the way. We're in this together.
Farmers must look after themselves first before they can look after anything else
Your well-being is essential for the success of your farm— health and happiness directly impact the quality of the products being produced and the efficiency of your processes. It also affects your workforce's morale and productivity, and financial success. By prioritising your well-being, you can create a more positive and sustainable future for yourself and the industry as a whole.
In short, ignoring your well-being is not an option if your farm is to be successful. It is time for the agriculture industry to place a greater emphasis on the health and happiness of the individuals who are responsible for feeding the world.
If you need some help making your farming life easier, don't hesitate to contact the helpline in your area or a trusted person to discuss your concerns. You matter.
Until we meet again, Happy Farming!
- The Dedicated Team of Pasture.io, 2023-02-20