February News from North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center
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In January, the American Farm Bureau Federation released a report showing that two-thirds of farmers and farmworkers say that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their mental health, with more impacts for people age 18-44 compared to those age 45 and older. They also found that most felt farmer mental health was impacted by financial issues, the state of the farming economy, farm or business problems, and future uncertainty. Availability, accessibility, cost, stigma, and embarrassment were all found to be barriers to seeking mental health services.

The good news is that among those surveyed, three-quarters would be comfortable talking to a primary care doctor, therapist, or counselor about stress or mental health, and approximately 4 out of 5 rural adults surveyed said they would be comfortable talking with a friend or family member dealing with stress or mental health concerns.

Trainings, workshops, and programs offered by the North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center and its key network collaborators help to build awareness and skills for the agricultural community to engage in critical conversations about mental health and stress. We hope that through expanded offerings and information, we are helping to reduce stigma about mental health, making it easier both for people to ask for help when they need help and for those who are concerned to check in on the people they are concerned about.

We hope you continue to join us here for updates from our key network collaborators and their partners. Please feel free to forward this newsletter to people in your networks, who can subscribe using the link at the bottom of this message. Thank you for your care and concern about stress and mental health in the agricultural communities across our region and beyond.

Josie Rudolphi, Josier@illinois.edu
Courtney Cuthbertson, cuthbert@illinois.edu
University of Illinois Extension

progressive ag safety day

Key Network Collaborator Update


Progressive Agriculture Foundation

 children with balloons
 Using balloons, children try to juggle common stressors, such as schoolwork, chores, and relationships. When they start to feel overwhelmed and can no longer keep their balloons in the air, they are encouraged to ask for help from a friend or family member.

The Progressive Agriculture Foundation is on a mission to provide education, training, and resources to make farm, ranch, and rural life safer and healthier for children and their communities. Reaching more than 1.8 million children and adults since 1995, Progressive Agriculture Safety Days is recognized as the largest rural safety and health education program for children in North America. By training and empowering hundreds of volunteers, who serve in the role of Safety Day Coordinators, both school-based and community programs offer one-day events that are educational, age-appropriate, hands-on, fun, and, above all, safe for children ages 4 to 13. These events are tailored and customized to meet the needs of the local community.

For 27 years, the program has promoted safety and healthy practices through a variety of youth-focused hands-on activities and demonstrations on more than 30 different topic areas, including new and emerging issues like mental health. Following a successful fall 2019 roundtable in St. Paul, Minnesota that included Dr. Susan Jones, Emily Krekelberg, Monica Kramer McConkey, Dr. Josie Rudolphi, and Commission Thom Petersen, Mental Well-Being & Stress Management curriculum was developed in 2020. The curriculum helps children understand stress and their emotions, learn positive coping strategies to deal with stressors, and provide resources to help families continue the conversation at home. With many in-person events for 2020 postponed or cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, key concepts were introduced through our Daily Learning Drop Series, Virtual Safety Days, and a Story Hour Series.

To learn more about the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day program, including events taking place in 2021, how to apply coordinate an event locally, or volunteer opportunities, visit www.progressiveag.org


Resource Spotlight


Social and Emotional Learning in Practice Toolkit

 social emotional learning resource

Addressing rural and farm stress cannot ignore young people who are worried about their parents, anxious about family finances and health, and unsure of their own future livelihoods (Kloeckner, 2021). Now, more than ever, we need to prioritize youth needs and help them thrive while managing the effects of stress and loss.

Social and emotional learning is a broad framework that includes learning to be aware of and manage emotions, working well with others, and persevering when faced with challenges. Youth programs develop SEL skills by creating opportunities for young people to engage in real-world projects, work in teams, take on meaningful roles, face challenges, and experience the accompanying emotional ups and downs along the way.

The University of Minnesota Extension’s toolkit is a flexible set of practical tools, templates and activities that can be used with staff and youth to increase intentional practices that support social and emotional learning. It includes resources to:

  1. Help staff understand SEL, attend to their own SEL competencies and cultural values, and consider how their program supports SEL;
  2. Establish expectations, give feedback, integrate reflection and emotional management;
  3. Design program activities to help youth practice and develop various SEL skills; and
  4. Collect SEL data for improvement through reflective activities and tools to gather feedback and track change.

Our toolkit remains a free download here, but we often get requests to purchase hard copies. It is now available at shop4-h.org with discounted bulk pricing. We also have an SEL training suite and are working on a self-guided online course. Contact: Kate Walker, kcwalker@umn.edu


Partner Highlight


I-CASH: Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health

 Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health

Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health was founded in 1990 by an act of the Iowa State Legislature that identified a need for a statewide center that focuses on issues of occupational health and safety in agriculture. The center is located at University of Iowa, and is a collaboration between the UI, Iowa State University, Iowa Department of Public Health, and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. I-CASH is one of only a few state-funded centers focusing on agricultural safety and health. 

For NC FRSAC, I-CASH staff will collaborate with ISU Extension and Outreach staff to help develop curricula for rural mental health providers that will improve their understanding of occupational stresses in agriculture.  The goal is to expand knowledge about farming to the provider population in the North Central region to reduce stigma and increase the likelihood that farmers will seek care. In addition to working on issues of farm stress and mental health, I-CASH conducts four seasonal campaigns per year, distributing prevention resources to county Extension and Farm Service Agency offices across Iowa. Recent topics include lock-out-tag-out procedures for grain bin entry, fall prevention, safe burning practices, and winter weather preparedness.  All materials are available at the I-CASH website. Contact Director Brandi Janssen, brandi-janssen@uiowa.edu.


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