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Welcome to the first monthly newsletter of the North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center!  

Our goal is to support the wellbeing of agricultural producers in the 12-state North Central region by engaging 15 collaborating organizations who provide educational programs, outreach, training, behavioral health services, and support groups for agricultural producers and stakeholders. Each newsletter will share an update from a participating collaborator, information about a relevant resource, and highlights from programs or organizations connected to our collaborators. We are developing a website to house a wealth of information and resources as well, and look forward to sharing the web address when it is available.   

We know that you are reading this newsletter because you are someone who cares about supporting agricultural producers – thank you for what you do, for the care and compassion you offer, and for investing your time in this important topic. We can each make a difference and it is our hope that in sharing information we are all strengthening our own knowledge, skills, and connections to promote the wellbeing of producers across our region and country.    

We are grateful to have wonderful collaborators from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Kansas State University Extension, Michigan State University Extension, North Dakota State University Extension, Ohio State University Extension, Purdue University Extension, South Dakota State University Extension, University of Minnesota Extension, University of Missouri Extension, University of Nebraska Extension, University of Wisconsin Extension, the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, National AgrAbility, and Progressive Agriculture Foundation. We look forward to sharing updates from our collaborators and their partners.  

If someone forwarded this to you and you would like to receive these newsletters directly, please click “subscribe” at the bottom of this message. Please contact Josie Rudolphi and/or Courtney Cuthbertson with questions.  

Thank you for joining us here! 

Josie Rudolphi and Courtney Cuthbertson  
University of Illinois Extension 

Key Network Collaborator Update: Michigan State University


Michigan State University (MSU) Extension developed two farm stress workshops to provide research-based education on various sources of stress for producers, communication strategies, and how to refer a producer to mental health resources, including when producers might be considering suicide. Communicating with Farmers under Stress (CFS) was designed for people who work with and/or support farmers and Weathering the Storm (WTS) was designed for farmers and their families. Both programs include information about agricultural economic trends, stressors unique to farmers, active listening and communication skills, the impacts of stress on the body, signs of stress, signs of suicide, how to connect someone to relevant mental health resources and can be delivered both in-person or online.

A new addition in 2020, Mending the Stress Fence is a short program that overviews the stress in agriculture, suicide awareness, and exposes participants to strategies for maintaining stress and how to ask open-ended questions.  MSU Extension’s online Train-the-Trainer course in Desire 2 Learn (D2L) provides an online self-paced course for facilitators across the nation to become certified to offer MSU Extension Farm Stress Management workshops in their local communities. The training is a combination of recorded presentation slides, interactive activities, online discussion boards, and includes access to an online learning community for individuals trained in the farm stress programs to collaborate and access materials. 

To learn more about Michigan State's programs, visit https://www.canr.msu.edu/managing_farm_stress/ or contact Eric Karbowski at karbows8@msu.edu.

Resource Spotlight: Iowa Concern Hotline


The Iowa Concern Hotline is a 24-hour a day, 7-day a week, free, confidential hotline available to agricultural producers and their families in the North Central Region. Supported by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, trained specialists provide immediate support to assist a caller or connect the caller with an expert to provide needed help. The Iowa Concern Hotline provides stress counseling for callers in distress but can also provide legal education, discuss financial concerns, and provide resources related to crises and natural disasters.  

An established crisis line, the Iowa Concern Hotline has been serving rural and agricultural callers in the Midwest since 1985. “The Iowa Concern Hotline was created in the 1980’s in response to the Farm Crisis. Farmers needed someone to talk to and someone to connect them with financial, legal, and stress management resources,” says Tammy Jacobs, the Iowa Concern Hotline coordinator. The Iowa Concern Hotline responds to over 10,000 calls a year by phone, chat, and email. The phone number for the Iowa Concern Hotline is 1-800-447-1985. 

The North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center is proud to partner with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to promote the Iowa Concern Hotline to agricultural producers, workers, and their families in the region. The Iowa Concern Hotline is well connected with stress management resources and services available outside of Iowa to provide relevant and appropriate support to callers not from Iowa. 

Partner Highlight: Farm Family Resource Initiative


Established in 2018, the Farm Family Resource Initiative (FFRI) is a pilot program of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and the Illinois Department of Agriculture. The FFRI provides a range of resources to assist with farmer and farm-related issues that include mental and physical health needs. The initiative offers ongoing outreach, education and training to rural clients and partners working to improve the health and safety of farm families. The pilot counties include Morgan, Sangamon, Macoupin, Christian, Logan, and Macon. 

“We are pleased to be spearheading this important initiative which will help Illinois farm families,” shares Ag Resource Specialist Karen Leavitt Stallman with the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development. 

Resources available to farmers through the FFRI include a helpline (1-833-FARM-SOS) that connects farmers to health professionals and services. In addition to the helpline, the initiative offers ongoing outreach, education and training to rural partners working to improve the health and safety of farm families. Free webinars and trainings on psychological signs of stress and Mental Health First Aid offer program participants skill-building tools to meet the needs of rural clients and farmers. FFRI and Illinois Extension established a partnership in 2019.

The Farm Family Resource Initiative is working with Illinois Extension to expand resources and services to Illinois producers. The Farm Family Resource Initiative is led by the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development (CRHSSD). To learn more, visit http://www.siumed.edu/farm or contact Karen Leavitt Stallman at kstallman88@siumed.edu or 618-713-0759. 


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