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A live Mainstreet Radio special from the Minnesota State Fair. Dr. Val Farmer, a psychologist specializing in rural mental health, takes questions from fair-goers and MPR listeners about mental health and farming.

Program also includes listener call-in.

[NOTE: Audio includes an opening news segment]

Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.

(00:00:00) With news from Minnesota Public Radio. I'm erisa Helms the National Science Foundation has given the University of Minnesota and the Science Museum of Minnesota a joint 17 million dollar Grant to study the Earth's surface. The University of Minnesota will use 14 million dollars to create the national Center for Earth surface Dynamics in a research center on the Mississippi River below st. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis Center co-director Professor Fe Fula, Georgia says, the center's researchers will pull together many fields of study to investigate the forces that shape Landscapes. Well, basically focus on understanding how they Earth's surface around us land surface or sea surface how water soil the vegetation chemical agents and so forth or in the soil are all working together to shape the land we see you around. The center's researchers will use the 48 foot drop at st. Anthony Falls as a constant source of fast-running water to run experiments on river sediments Landscapes cityscapes and the effects that climate change will have on the Earth's surface depending on how talks go in New York. The Minnesota Twins current road trip to Seattle in Oakland could end with their winning the American League Central or with players booking their own flights home twins players say they don't want to strike any more than the fans do in the weather today partly to mostly cloudy with a chance of showers and thunderstorms highs in the mid 70s to mid 80s. That's the latest from the Minnesota Public Radio Newsroom in St. Paul. I'm erisa Helms programming on Minnesota Public Radio is supported by the blandin foundation committed to strengthening rural Minnesota communities online at blandin Foundation dot-org. (00:01:58) Good afternoon, (00:02:03) and welcome to this Main Street special from the Minnesota State Fair. I'm Rachael Ray be farming just keeps getting tougher. The farm crisis has gone on so long. It seems like more of a chronic condition rather than a crisis every year more and more Farmers give up victims of low prices or high costs or droughts or floods or hostile Farm policies or all of the above. The financial blow has been tremendous, but it's not the only casualty on the farm today. We're going to talk about the emotional Fallout on the farm with rural psychologist valve farmer. Dr. Farmer. Welcome to Main (00:02:41) Street. Thank you Rachel. Nice to be here. (00:02:43) Thank you listeners. Our phone lines are open for your questions. If you're in the Twin Cities, you can call us at 6'5 12276 thousand 6512276 thousand if you are outside the metro area call us at Eight hundred two four to Twenty Eight twenty eight one eight hundred 242 2828. Dr. Farmer. Let's begin by talking about what effect the farm crisis is having on families. (00:03:12) Well, I think the economics provide an important underpinning to the emotional and healthy family life that the family enjoys it. You can't just have a good life on a family farm without the prophets there that had sustained it and the in many ways the emotional ties between husband and wife the communication the partnership the fund the enjoyment they have in the belief that they have that they can succeed provide the motivation to succeed on a family farm and if the prophet start to drive away, it drives a wedge between them and they start to lose hope and in the whole family situation starts to suffer and there's individual coping problems depression anxiety more conflict withdrawal tendency to Escape and deny problems or avoid dealing with things when you're when you don't have answers in front of you. And so it really puts a lot of pressure on the farm family and their coping skills. And sometimes they're coping skills prior to the crisis may not have been the best. So it sends them into a downward spiral Spiral and sometimes when they're coping skills are okay. They rallied together band together communicate deeply in a crisis helps bring out the best in a farm family. (00:04:27) We talked about the farmer as being a stoic above. All he is seen it all she has seen it all they've lived through it all. It's been bad. It's been good. It's been bad again. Does that kind of personality profile not lend itself well to coping (00:04:44) Well, I think part of that problem is that they don't address issues when they need to they just keep on plowing ahead when perhaps they need to break through and look at their situation redo their management communicate deeply with each other go for help take some other strategy to deal with the issue and to show some flexibility. If you're just doing the same thing thinking you're going to whether it somehow, sometimes you're going to end up with a rude awakening. (00:05:11) How do you learn to do that at 50 or 60 or 70? (00:05:16) Well, there's people that have learned to do that all along and so they have this flexibility and so crises and life don't throw them other people that have had not haven't had major setbacks and aren't anticipating. It may be thrown by a crisis at 50 or 60 and I know I've met a lot of older men older farmers and we're not older than me but 50s and 60s that are really trying to To look at their lives and think what am I going to do? Now? This isn't working and I want it to work. This is the only thing I know this is who I am and and they don't cope well and that's a major crisis in their lives and the more Focus they've been on Farming and and and enjoying that farming Lifestyle the more of a crisis it becomes for them because they don't see where their future is going to (00:06:05) be. But by the time they start asking those kinds of questions. Do you consider them to be well on the road to being well, I'm just asking you just even admitting to themselves that there are some questions here maybe to deal with I would think would be positive. (00:06:21) I think many people that ruminate about these kinds of things and they keep it to themselves and and that doesn't really do them a lot of good. I think it's when you verbalize your fears and your worries and your concerns and get it out with another person a confidant that you can start to be a problem solver with it and even writing it down and becoming active in expressing these concerns seems to be the Eat at coping rather than internalizing it and just trying to work it out in your own head. A lot of farmers make that mistake. They Retreat into themselves. They withdraw they want to solve it all they keep the problems to themselves and it only gets worse and it makes them more depressed. (00:06:59) Our phone lines are open for your questions and your comments what has been your experience either on the farm or with Farmers our phone number six, five. One two, two seven six thousand in the Twin Cities 1-800 to for to 2828. If you are outside the metro area Travis from Minneapolis is standing by on the phone. Good afternoon Travis. Welcome to Main Street. Travis go ahead with your question, please. Yes. Hello. We've got you now. Okay, I just was wondering I do know that times are tough for Farmers, but I am from Northwest Minnesota. And from what I've seen kind of going to his earlier point that they kind of don't adapt. Well, it seems that they will keep buying new vehicles and adding on to their house etcetera Etc. And because of the intertwined nature of farming as a family business, it seems like they're able to still live a relatively good life while on the books. It's appears that their Farm is failing and I guess I was wondering how a farm is different than any other business and why a normal business you have to buckle down and kind of get through the tough time versus farming where it seems like if it gets too bad that this get bailed out every time (00:08:16) Well, I agree that there are some Farmers that don't keep a handle on their cost of living and they operate as if that cost of living Factor family living doesn't affect their main budget and they do make mistakes. That's one of the ways that farm families get into trouble when you talk about Northwestern Minnesota though, you're talking about an area of the state that's been hammered by wet weather for the past the Ten Years poor crops and usual flooding conditions. And even this year replanting tough tough weather and the low prices and their Equity has been pushed out as down the drain and I don't know who the farmers are that are adding on up there. I'm sure there are some that are that are that are not adapting well in adjusting well, but these are real problems that people are struggling with it. It's a really a different environment up there and people are hurting and it's not their own personal management. That's the problem now why why his family Mike different than a regular business. I think there's a whole socialization process that goes on where you're on a family farm. You have those early experiences on a family farm. The farm marriage is good. There's that fun on a family farm people learn skills. They're really good at what they do even as teenagers and they're really prepared and excited and they've been socialized Agriculture. And and so when they go to give up a farm business, they're leaving behind a lifestyle, they love and treasure and they seen a lot of feel had a lot of feelings about they also have a generational Heritage or responsibility. They think to pass on the Family Farm to the Next Generation and they see them selves a link in a generational story that's ongoing and so there's a feeling of failure to and terms of the them being the family that has to give up the family farm. So it's a complex business where the lifestyle and the Actual work style of what goes into it what how you make a success is different enough for my other occupations that it doesn't really translate well to another type of job. (00:10:29) You've talked about Northwestern Minnesota and what a difficult time they are having and have had and of course to the west of us your from Fargo in The Dakotas and Nebraska Kansas even farther west they're talking about the worst drought since the dust bowl of the 1930s and yet some Minnesota Farmers are enjoying a marvelous Year good crops fine weather. Is that more difficult. Is it is it almost easier to bear when everybody's in the boat with (00:11:03) you? It is easier to bear if you're in the boat with everybody else and and I guess Minnesota is fortunate this year in terms of what's going on. Nationally that there is a price. Sound and it's corn and soybeans in this state look good and they don't look good in other states and and and in farming, I guess it's an unfortunate fact of life that sometimes you do. Well when other people do poorly in any wish that that weren't the case, but in this case Minnesota for the most part is going to have a fair year because of the other circumstances affecting farmers and other parts of the country the Apple Growers and Washington State are in big trouble Nebraska's in big trouble. I mean west of in the western part of the Great Plains, it's the driest it's ever been and it's starting to creep into the Corn Belt and the drought of 88 was very powerful. And this is if it goes on another year this will be just as bad or more or worse in terms of the emotional impact of the whole country in 1984 85 and 86 the farm crisis years kind of mushroom than most people are in the same boat and there was a lot Of sympathy and and Farmers pulling together other types of farm crisis where it's different in the neighborhood and some people are doing well and some people aren't the tendency is to pull back into yourself think that you're responsible and there isn't that community support for people that are undergoing a real hard time. (00:12:36) Let's go back to the phones. We have Dan from Minneapolis on the line. Good afternoon, Dan. Welcome to Main Street. Thank you. I have a comment or question to make my father is 65 years old. He's in declining health. And as a lot of farmers are in declining Health at that age and my brother and I have recently learned that after we thought he would be retiring this year that he has decided that he wants to farm for three or four or five more years and it you know, we're both in our mid 30s, and it creates a lot of emotional strain and stress. And wonders it didn't leave us a question with wondering. What is the future for us and for the family (00:13:23) farm? Do you have intentions of going back there someday? Are you just worried about Dad? We currently my brother and I (00:13:32) currently both help Farm. I take off time to a farm in the spring and the fall of at least a month and a half each season of my brother currently lives on the farm and has a farm place close to the homestead. And so, you know, we're looking for resources and help in this transition as we try to move forward and realizing that some of the business practices are outdated and some of the technology uses outdated and you know, the Machinery gets older and it creates Financial stress and a lot of worry on, you know in our immediate families and then there's a whole system that's affected by it. (00:14:15) Well, I think that contacting a farm financial advisor and kind of planning out a transition and and helping helping you move into this situation gradually and maybe filling in a little bit more and more is your father isn't able to do as much your own optimism your own confidence in your skills. And the outlook for agriculture in general has a lot to do with whether you want to get into the farming business because it requires someone that can deal with with high stress at someone that requires someone that that is good at people skills and organizing a Workforce your own family Workforce or other people that requires marketing skills. And and if you're up for it, I think it's a wonderful thing. There's a lot of people that really do well in farming and I don't want to under emphasize that but you have to to know that you love it and you care about it and the people that I talked with that are in the business that are wearing out and Farming that are under stress. They don't like it. It isn't any fun anymore. They have lost their motivation. And so it's your I think it's your own personal motivation. That's a key here. And then your father. I don't know what kind of person is as far as sharing management. But if he could phase into a semi retirement and still be there and be able to do whatever he wants to do there and you take over the management. I think that's the smoothest kind of transition that you could have if he's a bossy domineering type. Then you might have to wait for something to happen to him where he can't Farm anymore and he has to turn over the (00:15:50) reins. Dr. Farmer. Is that a major issue for Farm families? Because you talked in response to an earlier question that this is not just a job. This is not just a livelihood. This is a lifestyle. It's a legacy. It's this chain of family. Does that make the stress? Especially when things are tough when things are flush I Imagine it would be as difficult. But when things get tough and you start having those conversations about when he is stepping back or cash it in dad before we all lose our inheritance. How does that exacerbate (00:16:28) things? So it does a lot of the farm families that are facing a farm crisis have communication problems within the extended family that that when times are good money doesn't have to be a big source of stress. But but then you have conflict you have different goals that come to mind and it's hard to resolve these different goals. And so the way I the what I read in some research on this is that that fathers and Son relationships when they're good and positive all the way through the sons will stick around for the hard times and work it through and they can make those transitions but you've had a troubled conflictual relationship with your father over the years and then the hard times come. It's When the younger generation may bail out on the situation. I thought that collar was also going to just talk about no one coming in and taking the father's place and and having the older Farm couple be trapped there in terms of failing health and not being able to do and that's another common situation and Minnesota is what do you do when parents age on the farm and that's the only way of life that they have and there is nobody to take their place and there isn't a smooth transition to assisted living or moving into town when when they feel like they need to be out there doing the work (00:17:50) is the answer to almost all these problems communication. Well (00:17:56) Farmers need to be good at communicating and and a part of communication is a listening and being able to really hear what the other person is saying and having enough patience with your own arousal level and your own thoughts to really restrain them. So you can take in what the other person is wanting and And to work with them in terms of their goals, if people are to single-minded and too stubborn and too sure of themselves, then the communication process breaks down because they jump in the inner up they take over the conversation and you really can't get in a problem solving mode when you when there's not good listening taking place and a lot of the work that I do with Farm couples and Farmers is helping them take a step back and learn how to listen to other people and once they listen then they can really understand that the problem is beyond their own personal problem. (00:18:48) I'm Rachel rebe you're listening to a special Main Street broadcast from the Minnesota State Fair the ongoing farm crisis having a major impact on relationships some are staggering under the weight of financial pressure uncertain Futures and compounding stress. My guest today is dr. Val farmer. His expertise is rural mental health. He's counseled Farm families for 20 years listeners. Our phone lines are open for your questions if you're in the Twin Cities, Six five one 2276 thousand if you're outside the metro area you can cause at 1-800-222-1222 8 Jonas calling from Minneapolis. Good afternoon Joan. Welcome to Main Street. Yes, good afternoon. You know I work for the farmers way back when they were having all these full closures in fundraising for them and I learned an awful lot at that time. I learned one thing that the farmers are very disorganized and they don't have any Savvy aggressive leaders that can push them through for what they have to get out of because right now they're being attacked by Cargill and by all these big corporations who are taking over the business and they don't have anything coming back to them. All these corporations are taking everything from them. The other thing that I proposed recently to Senator wellstone was to have an extended Bill of Rights for the farmers, which I really feel they owe it to them because they did it for the gis the farmers. Saved the United not only the United States but all the Allies because they were the breadbasket of all of Europe and the United States during World War Two and I really feel that they have they should have an A retroactive extended bill for the Bill of Rights for the farmers that that really did so much to save America and the world and I really feel that I owe it to them to try to give them loans in order to get themselves on their feet. Dr. Farmer. Are we doing enough are the policies in place or are there some gaping holes that you see that really need to be filled? (00:20:53) Well, it's a complex situation the the comment about not enough Savvy Farm leaders. I think there are a lot of Savvy Farm leaders, but they're often pitted against one another in terms of different solutions and philosophical ideas. The farm bill that was just passed that would be Very conducive to helping put a financial safety net underneath Farmers. I think they're generally satisfied with that kind of approach the disaster payments over the past several years have been basically bailing out North Dakota and Minnesota in terms of farm income that a very significant part of the profitability here has been because of that and and I'm sure there could be more the gaps. I think Health Care is a big issue in terms of people affording health care or or having access to it because that can really defeat a farm family and a lot of people under a financial crisis may have the impulse to cut back on their health insurance to save money and it ends up even making a worse disaster to Farmers (00:22:07) feel psychologically supported. Do you think do they feel very much a minority that Don't understand and people wouldn't know how to help them is they feel isolated? (00:22:21) Well, I think that for the depends on on the time and the year during a major farm crisis like say the drought right now in Nebraska that they would generate a lot of public sympathy from the state because everybody is affected the economy is affected and everybody gets into the same boat and and that's when Farmers feel supported. But generally I think they feel like a minority. They have a victim mentality in terms of their occupation versus the rest of the world and that the world just doesn't understand their pressures the high stress that it involved the long hours that the lack of profits the lack of control they have over the price of their (00:23:01) product. How does that victim mentality impede? Impede progress impede (00:23:06) Health. Well a victim mentality gets in the way of active problem solving and and alternative flexible thinking and it's if you're stuck in blaming and anger and fixating on somebody else solving the problem. You're probably not looking closely enough at your own situation figuring out the getting some consultation getting some dollars and cents analysis and re re doing what you're doing or even the decision to leave farming can be a proactive positive 1 in terms of lifestyle and mental health and and family happiness. And so the people that really do well under times of pressure are the people that are focusing on the problem and taking some active steps and once they get involved in solving something it energizes all of those problem solving skills that farmers are notoriously for having as long as they're stuck kind of thinking that someone else should actually come And take care of this then they their own situation gets worse and worse and And the emotions then we'll even get worse. Also. (00:24:13) I'm Rachel riebe were broadcasting from the Minnesota Public Radio booth at the Minnesota State Fair. And if you want to know where we are right between the Bloomin onions and the hot dogs on a stick Kate Smith is in the audience. Rachel Lee is with me from Elko. Minnesota leads farmed for 50 years, right and your question. (00:24:34) Your last telephone call or whatever. Your question was pretend about help for the farmer and looking for more of like a Bill of Rights to Farmers. Nobody is going to do it for the farmer to Farmer has got to do it for himself. I am a producer and until Farmers come together and say hey this is what we got to get out of the marketplace. This is my price not every time you run to town. What do you give me now? If you went to the grocery store and you told somebody this is what I'll give you you think you'd get it you won't get no place in as far as your comment. Mr. Farmer about the the leaders that we've got out there. Yes, they are divided. You can almost take it someone else. She made the comment about the Cargill and arrest them take a look at what's happening folks. I can I don't want to take you on doctor but there are so many things that are going on out there against the individual producer and this country was founded on a private enterprise system. And today everything is geared. Against it (00:25:35) we were talking today about the psychological impact how emotionally this is going down. You've been in farming for 50 years. Would you say you're under more stress or what would you say is the emotional health of your family what today? Yes, the stress the stress is gradually gotten worse. (00:25:53) He made the comment was made about the losses in the Northwest. This is very true. They've gone through (00:25:58) this year after year. I've Got Friends in Montana there in their their fifth year over half the cattle are gone and this comes stress. But when you got it in your blood, hey, (00:26:07) that's what you want to do. Now. When I (00:26:09) started farming back in the 60s and my dad started back in the depression time, and he said at that time if you do a good job of farming, you can afford to lose it hailed out or lose one crop and 10, (00:26:20) but my God, these people are losing six (00:26:22) seven out of ten and the equity is disappearing. And (00:26:25) as long as you got Equity a (00:26:27) bank will carry you on and when Farmers today go to get a loan the bank or a loan officer says, will it cash flow? And as long as he can make his bank payments, yeah, it doesn't say anything about you got any money left over. That's that's what it comes down to you see and today you see Farmers getting in over their head. Yes, they're making a payment at the bank, but they're charging at the feed mill the vet built go and talk to these people that are supplying (00:26:52) Farmers today and see what they're carrying on the books. It's terrible (00:26:55) folks. Dr. Farmer your response to what he's saying. (00:26:59) Well, I'm agreeing that that there's a lot of pressure from the marketplace in terms of multinational corporations. And and the the bigger entities are banding together and dictating to the farmer what what the farmers going to get and the farmers haven't been successful in organizing themselves to be able to be a viable entry entity and negotiating back. Now, I appreciated the the intensity of of his thoughts that he's a man on the land and he understands the pressures that are out there and those pressures are building more and more. And farm families and I think there's a significant number of farm families that are feeling it and farming working harder and enjoying it less that the future isn't as rosy. The profits are a lot more thin and and the risks are just as greater if not greater. So it's a it's a tough business and yet there's people that are making it work and and in coping somehow in this tough environment that he's talking about (00:27:58) Susan from Buckman is on the phone. Good afternoon, Susan welcome to Main Street. Yes, go ahead. Yeah. Yeah, I ask you my brother has farmed our families and then through all the things that you've talked about the depression and the anxiety the marital problems the financial collapse of the bank wouldn't fund his operating for this year and he had to sell out and I ultimately had to with the unity and go gone through symmetry. We're having problem hearing her. I think she's on a cell phone but the gist dr. Farmer of what she's talking about is her brother has had to sell his farm as a sibling as a family member as a adult child as a spouse as a parent. How do you stand by and support them? What works? (00:28:59) Well, I think yeah rallying around getting that that family member to open up and talk and then seek out help seek out help through clergy or mental health or family doctor look into depression getting counseling for the marital issues getting that strength back in the couple so that the couple can go through it together then looking at transition resources and figuring out who you are and what your skills are and finding out that you can do something else in life and to make a good transition out of Agriculture and it is a two or three or four year process of Doing that but people that have left those pressured situations where it wasn't working. They reconstitute their lives. They enjoy each other again. They have a more normal life and they like their life after farming about 85% of the people that have left farming within three or four years are pleased with the decision. They've made to leave farming there's another 15% or so that are still struggling emotionally, but but there is life and (00:30:04) more whelming majority feel like they made a good (00:30:07) decision over and so it's not the end of the world now in that crisis situation for two or three years that brother's going to need a lot of help and emotional support and I don't know if she mentioned a drinking problem or not. But if you know people need to it's like a wake-up call in a crisis, they need to use that situation to change a lot of things about their lives and they come out of that thinking that crisis was a time when I responded well and I actually grew and became a better human being because it really stop You from doing all the wrong things and it made me rethink my priorities in life and a lot of people figure out who they are and what they want when they when they are what they're doing isn't working anymore. (00:30:50) Sometimes we need people to stand by to see us through to the other side. (00:30:54) I've gotten calls from siblings that are worried about their parents and their worrying worrying about their brothers and sisters there worrying about family operations and they go there they get people to talking they're trying to help solve problems. They're trying to get some decision-making going. So it's sometimes those siblings and family members that don't live on the farmer the healthy person that's coming in and saying hey you got to do something take care of this. Maybe you ought to go for help. And so I know there's a lot of people and in in the metropolitan areas of Minnesota that have their hearts out on the Family Farm and bleeding for their family farm family members that are suffering. (00:31:34) Kate Smith is in the audience with the member. We've got Carol Judy from Roseville here with a comment. I just have a comment regarding support for the farmer and I what I what I see sometimes as part of the problem is that our younger Generations have absolutely no concept where their food comes from. You know, it's like I go to the grocery store and I can get cereal and all of these things. And so what are the farmer goes out of business and what's the big deal if we put asphalt from the Atlantic to the Pacific? I'm you know, what's the big deal here? I can just go to the store and get these things. I think people have got out of are no longer in contact with where our food comes from and that if we have all of these weather problems and they get more severe and this becomes more widespread we could all be in the position of not having enough to (00:32:32) eat one of Things about our country is that we have an abundance of food, and we're very blessed nation and we haven't had hunger and drouth. I mean hunger in our country like war-torn Europe and other places and they understand the importance of food and how valuable food is and and they provide a level of subsidy to their Farm population because they have that fear of not having food on the table and our country hasn't gone through anything hard like that too. So we understand what value the farmers are now the farmers in our country are really really good. They are strong producers. And and so we have this abundance and the in this competitive environment produces all of the things that we take for granted and we have food policies that also help help us kind of relaxed that our percentage of the food budget is the smallest in the world compared to other countries. And so we are blessed here and our Farmers are responsible almost to their own (00:33:36) detriment. I'm Rachael Ray be my guest is dr. Val farmer a rural psychologist. He is for 20 years worked in the area of rural mental health back with Kate Smith in our audience. We've got Florence here from New Brighton with a comment when I don't live on a farm, but when I read about all the problems Farmers have now with the high cost of capital markets that don't produce you don't return what they produce it cost to produce who is making it on the farm. (00:34:08) The there's probably an upper 20% of the farm families that are operating at a scale. They have bigger family operations. They work together. Well as families and family operations, they have hired labor and they're very aggressive at understanding government programs. They are some of the sharpest business people around and and there's a lot of people Making a good living on the farm, but it's not the medium size or smaller size family farmer. It's the person who's operating at a level that even may be incompatible with lifestyle considerations. It has turned into a business they operated as a business and but they're also good at at people management and organizing themselves to operate at that level. So so yeah, there are good good Farmers out there. I mean big farmers and they are making (00:35:02) it John is on the phone from Cold Spring. Good afternoon John welcome to Main Street. I was calling because I live on a farm. I'll be inheriting it from my folks and one of our neighbors. I remember one of the most saddest experiences growing up with one of our neighbors basically committed suicide in their kitchen because they're worried about losing their farm and the suicide rates. I was just looking at a friend of mine some statistics from Wisconsin for farm accidents and new farming was a dangerous occupation, but Over a quarter of the deaths I guess in Wisconsin last year were to Farmers and I know a lot of those are actually suicides people falling off silos and things aren't always accidents or games run over by a tractor and I was wondering like what I think some of the previous people have commented on that, you know, the whole cheap food policy is very degrading dehumanizing for farmers and other way when they're sort of subject, you know contracts. It can't control and prices are being manipulated by these big corporations. And when I was in school and FFA, we were often told, you know was our own fault. If you were a bad farmer you were bad manager and you know, there's never any more critical look at our whole food system and how that sneaking Farmers sort of exploit themselves. And then now of course explaining workers if they're hiring people for their animals, and I guess I'm wondering, how can we You have a more sustainable and Humane food system that doesn't lead Farmers to commit suicide or exploit themselves. (00:36:33) Thanks. Well, I you know, that's a probably a Rachel needs an AG Economist on the show or to deal with that. I know that at the farm family level people can open up and communicate a lot better with one another they can put Priority on their marriage they can spend time together. They can be more playful. They can manage their stress better. They can control their tempers. They can work for common goals. One of the things that is really helpful for Farm families is to know that they're not alone and I've been able to bring together some Farm couples and Retreats up in the Northwestern Minnesota and North Dakota Northeastern North Dakota where they actually get together in small groups and they don't know each other before they come to the Retreats and they can share deeply their emotions in that process of communicating and and That they have a lot in common. They start to Value themselves. They get re-energized they get hope and they start to really connect with other people and I think that that on a personal level people can be aggressive and attending to themselves and getting the mental health care that they need in order to cope with things and also the rural communities can be alert to Farmers that are in trouble. They're withdrawing they're not where they're supposed to be there obviously depressed and and they need encouragement to go to get resources so that you're not dealing with the suicide situation. It's it's almost like you can tell who they are. But the rural ethic is Live and Let Live is so strong that people are afraid to to intervene or to say something when something really needs to be said sometimes about someone that's obviously hurting. (00:38:23) For those people who are listening to horse saying that's the situation. I'm in. I know somebody and I'm afraid for them. What would you specifically suggest for (00:38:32) them? I would suggest that they go to that person and be a very directive and getting onto some kind of a resource and get that inner emotional life out in the open whether it's with a family doctor or clergy or mental health professional or even with a friend just get that person to talking with someone and then from there you start to understand the problem and start to bring in resources and mobilize some help for that person so that they can feel connected. (00:39:07) Are we so frightened of being offencive by being that (00:39:11) Direct? I think that in the in the rural areas there's a respect for each other's privacy, even though there's no anonymity people like to pretend there is and so people don't like to really talk about everything. You just act like you don't know right and okay. And so and so you have to understand that there's still times when you need to say something even though normally it wouldn't teenagers need to learn that when they their friends start saying suicidal things that the responsible thing is to involve an adult and get that problem out in the open. You don't keep a secret and adults also in rural communities have to say Okay. This is one of those times when I don't respect your confidentiality, this is serious. And as your friend, I'm going to be helping you get help and and and they really need someone strong then to help them take those first few steps and getting help. (00:40:11) We have Roger on the phone from Apple Valley. Good afternoon Roger. Welcome to Main Street. Good afternoon. I just had a comment on the farm situation. I ran the hotline from 1983 to 1991 for the state of Minnesota and took over 10,000 calls. And I think that farmers are much not like at all other businesses and that they many of them have inherited their farms and grown up on the farms and have a true identity with the farms and it's very difficult for them to make a transition into other work than it is for other people in society with other (00:40:49) businesses. Well, I agree with you 100% the idea of leaving farming and all of the emotional attachments and attachments that community and and the personal identity with the occupation. The lack of Alternatives really makes people feel like they're trapped and so they don't see the hope for a life after farming and and I know that there is a good life after farming and a lot of people have taken that step. It's just that people in that spot don't know that there is a life after farming. (00:41:25) Dr. Farmer, you have a Counseling Practice in you meet with Farmers. Regularly. What are some of the success stories? What are some of the anecdotes of people who did not think there was any hope and they couldn't picture what they could do besides the farm and they actually came through (00:41:42) it. Well, I've talked with Farm couples in terms of their marriages and terms of working to better get better together as couples and and really working the Family Farm a much better way and getting along in the family and then I work with people that are leaving farming and helping them make that transition and I I've seen people that are two or three years. In fact, we had Lowell Nelson who was on the Nightline show a few years back and and he I worked with him. He was helping other farmers and some Retreats that we are having and he's made a good transition out of agriculture. Life is much better now than it was when he was at the peak of the crisis and at the very peak of the crisis. He was suicidal and he's alive and happy and enjoying grandchildren and family life and he's seeing his adult boys grow up and do well in life. So and and there were some some real tough things that he went through to get to that point. It wasn't an easy Road and I and I see other people like that I coming to these Retreats and then having reunions Retreats about 80% of the people that come back to the reunions and Retreats are just really doing well and making positive steps. They've made decisions. They're well on their way it's a transition but for sure but they're doing well and another residual number of the people are still struggling in the people that are doing well rally around the ones that aren't doing so well and so it's just heartwarming to see people find joy in their life and take on this new life. For themselves, (00:43:26) dr. Farmer at some point in the farm crisis the economy elsewhere was rolling stock market look good. Great job market, you can get a job anywhere. You wanted things were going well for the rest of us. Now all of that has slowed down the economy is sluggish. The stock market has plummeted. Everybody's whining about their 401k. Is there less sympathy now for farmers are people listening to this and saying okay. Yeah, the Family Farm, you know, we got problems here (00:44:00) too. Well, I think we also have 911 and terrorism and and so I think that we have all kinds of problems and what sympathy there was out there a year or two ago as receded into the woodwork in terms of boy. There's way too many problems and I don't think there is a widespread Groundswell of support we've got to help the farmers because there's so many of the rest of us that are suffering to and and so you're right. I think that there's a general backing off of worrying about this and Farmers more are more on their own now, I think the farm legislators rallied around and pulled off some Farm legislation that nobody thought could get through and so I think they got that done but I don't think there's that much out there more to do. I think President Bush is going to resist more disaster type funding and I think what's out there is what's out there and I don't think farmers can hope for a whole lot more right now. (00:44:59) We have an on the phone from st. Paul. Good afternoon and welcome to Main Street. I think that dr. Doll farmer is got he's putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. He doesn't have it. He doesn't get it. I think the whole problem with this thing is that they really need a strong union that is run by sharp accountants who know finances inside out to help every farmer get out of this mess that they're in and to try to get Taxation and to try to get funding for them. And that's basically it were talking about ho humming about their sympathies and about their depressions and all that. That's they really need Professionals for that. But that's not what the what they're supposed to be doing. They're supposed to be trying to help them financially to get out of the mess there in to fight the corporations and get legislation for them. That is what they really need. And that's the priority. (00:45:50) What I do is help people think through their lives help them refocus on what they're trying to accomplish communicate better and then they can start addressing those issues. They go out. They contact their accountants their attorneys. They take a hard look at their finances. And so sometimes people are at a point where they need the emotional support and energy and Council in order to move to that aggressive posture of trying to solve their problem. Now, there does need to be people like myself putting Band-Aids on this because there's a whole lot of people hurting and you're right there need to be a lot more prevention at the other end and that's not my business, but I am needed and a lot of people like me are needed because there are people that are hurting and they need to regroup and they need to mobilize themselves to take advantage of what's there. (00:46:41) You're listening to a special Main Street broadcast from the Minnesota State Fair. I'm Rachel rebe. We're talking with rural psychologists Val farmer about the emotional Fallout on the Arm you'd like to give us a call in your in the Twin Cities called 6512276 thousand 6512276 thousand. If you're outside the metro area call us at one eight hundred two four to Twenty Eight. Twenty eight one eight hundred 242. 2828 Dave from st. Cloud is on the phone. Good afternoon. Dave. Welcome to Main Street. Good afternoon. I'm sorry. I'm on a cell phone. If this doesn't come in. I want to make two points if I could one the economics of farming. I don't think people understand that not all Farmers have the same resources of the same field. So that one timer who's successful because they have better Fields can make a profit or somebody else's farming in, you know, not Superior land. We don't want to run those Farmers out of business. We want to help them also and second. We're a supply and demand economy. And if the farmers in order for the farmers to get paid, we almost have to wait until there's a shortage so we can raise the prices, but we don't want Have people starving or a shortage of food in this country. So I think they need to subsidize their also. (00:47:57) Well, I appreciate your comments about the farmers differing in their management. That's not their management. It's the resources that they command that sometimes the puts them in a spot where they really can't bounce back that every year is a struggle and other other farmers in a position of moving ahead establishing goals and making progress and it's not so much the difference in management, but what they can have to manage and when I first started counseling Farm families in the late late 1970's and early 80's, everybody said it's poor management poor management and and then they farm crisis of the mid 80s came along and an all of the weather crises and basically what farmers are saying is people they're learning that they're not alone that they haven't been cut out of the herd, but the whole herd sometimes gets in trouble and and then there are times and places when the whole herd is in trouble and it isn't management. That's the cause of (00:48:55) it Alison from This is on the phone. Good afternoon Alison. Welcome to Main Street. Hi. Thank you. I'm actually from a farm. I grew up in your Walnut Grove and I am frustrated that while prices are up and there's some chance that crops will be good in part of the state. What we're talking about is the crisis and it's always the crisis and it seems like no matter how good things might be the crisis will be (00:49:22) fun. There's a I believe there's a 15 to 20 25 percent of farm families that are operating on the edge. They go from year to year and that group will always be their year to year. No matter what there will be some Farm families in a crisis the other 70% more or less a depends on conditions in agriculture whether some of those are in trouble so we can talk farm crisis. Rachel said at the beginning of the show, this is chronic. This is system a system problem. It isn't just a new thing that jumped on the scene this year. It's people not being able to farm their way out of their problems and then they hang on and they hang on and it takes an emotional toll on them and there's no real bright light for them at the end of the tunnel (00:50:07) Brenda from Columbia Heights is on the phone. Good afternoon, Brenda. Welcome to Main Street. Good afternoon. I have just been wondering if there is any it would would it be useful to have a bunch of people volunteering as a group of available to the Farms the people who are living on the edge as you were calling it that in well similar to the we have a Coalition in this area of a bunch of churches. They're doing a lot of work for Habitat together and Habitat for Humanity. It seems to me like if there's a need for it. It would be relatively simple to setup that sort of thing. Would it be of you sort of help and who would I contact? (00:50:50) Well, there is a rural outreach program and in the western part of the state and especially in Northwestern Minnesota where they have Outreach workers that go out and provide that kind of support and information and the it's called the Northwestern Disaster Response Network in the there's an 800 number 800 Nine eight five 0228 and they do marvelous things. And so the kind of thing that you're talking about people are doing it's probably not being done Statewide. But in those areas of high need the the disaster funding has come in and provided people to go out and meet and try to meet the needs of these people that are hurting and to contact them and help them (00:51:34) Kate Smith is in our audience. We've got Don who Farms 800 acres. Yeah near Slayton where it was really dry. (00:51:42) Yeah. It was a dry for about six weeks and then we finally got grain (00:51:46) but one of the things we're talking about is that it's not just the emotional Fallout of farming because done-for-you farming is just one career, right? (00:51:54) Yeah. I always do another kind of work. (00:51:58) So how does that change your stress level? (00:52:02) Oh, I you'd live with it. I guess it's not too (00:52:05) bad. Can you put all those things together into one package and pay the bills? (00:52:11) Yeah, we seem to we survived one way or the (00:52:14) other. It's balancing a lot of balls. Yeah, I guess. (00:52:20) One of the comments about that is that a farm work is a big factor in farming and that farmers either have an off Farm job in the family or their own second or third business Enterprise and they're doing all of those things and it's the diversity that they bring to the management that helps make their family farm viable at they don't have all of their eggs in one basket and and that there's a lot of high-powered enterprising people that are doing more than one thing on a family farm and somehow they make it work. So that's great. (00:52:50) Dr. Farmer. You have written four years for Farm wife news and also Coleman Woman's World. What are you addressing specifically to women as relates to the farm crisis? (00:53:03) Well, I really write two men in a way that explains what women need and they're what the women love it. I've talked about family issues and Communications and and how to improve their relationships how to be open. About finances and work together as a farm team how to be better parents and and be more gentle and loving with the children and not to be domineering or Workaholics and address some of the excesses that farmer sometimes get into when they become preoccupied with farming. So I'm helping soften up the farm environment where they actually do have that lifestyle working for them that they are enjoying themselves as a couple their meeting each other's needs and they and that farming is put in the right perspective. It isn't this huge thing that's dominating and controlling their lives that it's a tool or a means to an end. And that end is the successful well-being and happiness of the people on the farm and and so farmers need to understand how to do that and to do that more in the farm women. Enjoy having that message put out there that they can't they want their husbands to manage their stress better and to have better priorities in terms of how they organize their lives. (00:54:18) Dr. Valle Farm. We're out of time. Thank you so much for being with us today. This special Main Street radio broadcast is a production of Minnesota Public Radio. Our Engineers are Cliff Bentley at the Minnesota State Fair and Randy Johnson in st. Paul. This show is produced by Sarah Mayer and Nikki co-executive producer Kate Smith also served as our site producer today. We'd like to invite you to visit our website. You'll be able to learn more about Main Street radio and listen to this broadcast go to Minnesota Public Radio dot-org Minnesota public radio's Main Street team consists of twelve reporters at MPR bureaus across Minnesota. I'm Rachel re be programming on Minnesota Public Radio is supported by the blandin foundation committed to strengthening rural Minnesota communities online at blandin Foundation dot-org. Minneapolis looks at a new process for civilian review of the police. I'm Kathy Wars. ER the old civilian review board was a casualty of budget cuts will have the story tomorrow on Morning Edition from Minnesota Public Radio, Canada, blue FM 91.1. You're listening to Minnesota Public Radio. It's 76 degrees at knnow FM 91.1 Minneapolis. St. Paul. Today's Twin Cities weather calls for partly sunny skies with a high of 78 degrees. There's a 40% chance of showers or thunderstorms tonight partly cloudy a slight chance of showers and for Friday, mostly sunny and warmer high of 83 degrees the time one o'clock.


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