PULASKI (NBC26) — From working long hours, to financial uncertainty, to worrying about the weather, being a farmer is more stressful than many people know.
"It’s a lot of work, it’s not an easy life," said Phil Ullmer, owner of Ullmer Acres LLC in Pulaski. "You've got to be committed to it, you've got to get up every day, get out of bed and go to work all day. It’s not an easy lifestyle by any means.”
The are always challenges for farmers every year and every day, said Ullmer.
“You think you’re going to make some money doing this and then all of a sudden, the market turns and you’re on the wrong side of it," he said.
For farmers, the main support system is each other, which is now much harder to find.
“Before COVID, you would see people out and about or for events," said Ullmer. "But now people kind of are just doing their thing, and that’s all they do, you know. You don’t meet other people like we used to right now.”
DATCP has a new resource to try and help; the agency announced online farmer support groups. There will be three sessions every month, with a maximum of 20 farmers per session. There are afternoon and evening sessions, as well as one for couples support. Sessions will be led by farmers who themselves experienced stress and anxiety, said Jayne krull, director of the Agriculture Resource and Promotion Bureau.
“There’s a stigma around mental health," she said. "Farmers are incredibly stoic. They have a lot of pride in what they do, and it’s hard for them to think about mental health as something they need to keep up with.”
DATCP originally wanted to create in-person support groups, she said. But having to do them online instead might actually be better.
“We may get more attendees participating," said Krull. "There is the option of being quite anonymous on Zoom. You don’t have to show your face. You can just give your first name, so we actually think and hope it will get a good participation rate.”
Ullmer isn't sure yet if he will take advantage of the support groups, he said. But he's glad to know the resource is out there, if he needs it.
“It’s nice that they’re thinking of us and they want to support us and help us, but I mean really wish it wouldn’t have to be, you know," he said. "You wish that things would be well enough that we could make money and be happy and go on with our lives and be successful.”
You can sign up online here.