In this file:
· Commentary: Don't Take On Farm Stress Alone
· Mastering through a pandemic
Commentary: Don't Take On Farm Stress Alone
Source: American Soybean Association
via FarmJournal's Pork - May 14, 2020
This commentary is from Bob Worth: Minnesota Soybean Growers Association At Large Governing Board
Member/Past ASA Board Member/ASA Ag Communications Team (ACT) Member.
It was provided by the American Soybean Association.
Farm stress is certainly not a new concept. My father saw rural suicide rates spike in his farming
days in the 1930s. When I was a young farmer just getting started in the ‘80s, I got super
depressed. Interest rates were as high as 21%, while land and machinery values plummeted.
Farmers were being foreclosed on, and once again mental health in ag communities declined. I
didn’t want to get out of bed or go to work. I didn’t care about harvest and just wanted to stay
in the house.
My wife was the one who convinced me to get help, and I’m glad she did—otherwise I don’t
know where I’d be. I talked to my doctor and he diagnosed me with a severe case of
depression. He put me on medication, and when that didn’t work, I tried another one and
started to feel better.
There is no shame in getting the help you need. Farm stress isn’t something you need to take
on alone—sometimes you can’t just do it yourself. I was on medication for three years before
gradually weaning off—but every so often, when I can tell that I am sliding back into
depression, I reach out.
Now once again, anxiety and depression is setting in high across agriculture. We’ve seen a
steady decline in profitability for around six years that’s really hurting farmers.
With depressed prices, terrible cash flow, soybeans down 15 cents again, unprecedented
weather events, a trade war, ethanol and biodiesel plants shutting down—things are looking
Emotional health and managing farm stress are issues that are very important and close to me.
Not only have I struggled personally with farm stress, but I’ve had three really close people in
my life who struggled and died by suicide. There’s nothing worse than watching a family go
We need to have a stronger voice and start talking about this in the agriculture community. If
you’re depressed or stressed, there’s nothing wrong with getting help. It’s just like an illness.
Like the flu or anything else. There are tools out there to help. The main thing is you have to
talk about it; otherwise, things will escalate—and suicide is not an option.
Farmers are very private people and don’t like to talk about their own personal problems, but
we need to start talking. You’re not the lone ranger: there are more people struggling with this
than you’ll ever realize.
There’s nothing wrong with getting help...
Mastering through a pandemic
No matter how you feel, realize that we are all going through this COVID-19 crisis.
Kevin Schulz, National Hog Farmer
May 14, 2020
You don't need me to tell you that these times are tough, and more than likely they will get tougher before all the dust is settled.
Agriculture has always been plagued by tough times — Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, grasshopper swarms, pseudorabies, 1980s farm crisis, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, $8 hogs, porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, fear of African swine fever, just to mention a few. And now, the entire world is within the grip of COVID-19.
Every crisis of the past has seen survivors, as well as, sadly, those who could not and did not make it through the other side. Even in good years, when there may not be a global pandemic or an economic downturn, some individuals or families may be facing isolated turmoil. Whether you are in the same gloomy boat with everyone else, or you're in a kayak of despair, how you come out on the other end may be dictated by luck, by government assistance, aid from other sources, or maybe just by attitude and determination.
The old adage, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger," may hold some truth.
Nobody's life is perfect, many are far from it. Longevity in life and in a career teach you that both are definitely a marathon and not the proverbial sprint. Every May we dedicate our monthly magazine issue to the Masters of Pork Industry, people who have left a tremendous footprint on today's pork industry. The selections for this year's class, as with previous years' Masters, prove that determination to work through life's hurdles can indeed make for successful futures.
COVID-19 prevented us from providing you with more of a substantial list of Masters, but that in no way diminishes the impact that the three honorees have had on the industry.
Everett Forkner has been in the hog business for more than 50 years, and you can bet that he has seen his share of ups, downs, good, bad and ugly.
He found early on, coming from a country school class of 12, that nothing would be given to him. "We were scared to death that they'd flunk us out, so we kept our noses in the books, and we both made the dean's list first semester," Forkner says of when he and his cousin both enrolled at the University of Missouri.
Realizing that he could compete at that level, has served Forkner well as he has built an international name in swine breeding and developed a brand of natural premium pork.
Identifying what needs to be done and pursuing that to fruition has led Gordon Spronk in business at Pipestone System and in life.
Spronk joined the Pipestone Veterinary Clinic out of veterinary school in 1981, heading into some of those gloomiest times for U.S. agriculture.
"Production models were changing, and it became very apparent to us in the middle to late-'80s, that pig production was changing rapidly," Spronk recalls, "and farmers, our veterinary clients needed better genetics, better health, larger groups of pigs, better nutrition and better management."
Spronk has also been faced with overcoming gloomy times in his own life, including manning up to a being found guilty of making false statements to a federal lending institution. "I'm a convicted felon," Gordon says matter-of-factly. "That's a dark period in my career."
That dark period of 1998, appeared quite bright compared to what hit Spronk on May 2, 2017, when a vehicle that he and five others were traveling in crashed in the Czech Republic, killing three including Spronk's wife, Deb.
Spronk has learned how to deal with grief, realizing there are seasons of grief...