The Cultivating Resiliency for Women in Agriculture Project started in 2018 as an innovative project that would address stress in women in agriculture, particularly farm and ranch women. The choice to focus on farm women was intentional. Researchers have found that farm women have unique self-perceived needs in responding to farm stress because of the multiple roles they play on farms and that their mental health and psychological wellbeing needs are not well known. Women also play a central role in farming operations and families and if they don’t have their needs met, they will not be able to assist others in managing their stressors.
The project initially started as a three-part pilot project – an interactive online series, online questionnaire, and live sessions. It has now grown to continue these three components and has added online support groups, podcasts and follow-on materials developed from the sessions. All programming is offered at no cost to the participants. The centerpiece of the project for participants has been the online series of webinars. This series has been focused on what they can control in these challenging times and help connect to them with resources and information that would help them weather stress. Raising awareness of farm stress is important, but offering tools to help weather the stress is critical. The series has covered a wide range of topics from general mental health awareness, depression, and anxiety, suicide prevention, conflict, communications, goal-setting, self-care, stress in farm youth and more. 16 sessions have been completed to date with additional sessions being planned in the future.
Thus far through the online series, we reached over 1700 participants in 47 states the District of Columbia and five provinces through the online series.
? Primarily women 23-72 years of age
? Both production agriculture and other agricultural positions, often both.
? 0-2000+ acres
? Vegetable, fruit, nuts, commodity crops, dairy, market livestock, horse
? Small to large family farms
Webinar participants were askes pre-session questions, in-session questions and post-session questions among some of the findings: Participants were satisfied to a “great extent” with the webinars' average rating 4.24 out of 5. Participants felt a “strong ability” to move forward after the webinars' average rating of 4.15 out of 5. Other Key findings included - relationships are a KEY PART of resiliency and online offerings can help bridge gaps when face-to-face options have accessibility hurdles. Participants like the practical strategies that can be implemented immediately, the fact that they don’t have to travel for the information, the interactive nature of the sessions; the fact that everything is recorded and can be watched multiple times providing flexibility to the participants. Participants also appreciate the fact that our experts all have agricultural backgrounds and are able to tackle tough topics surrounding mental health in an approachable fashion.
We also conducted an online questionnaire (n=303) to help us better plan for the educational needs of our audience. Respondents reported experiencing increasing worry in themselves or farmers they knew in the following areas: financial worries (91%), worry about commodity prices (87%), anxiety (77%), weather concerns (76%), burnout (73%), worry about increasing regulations (72%), and farm transfer concerns (68%). We also learned that the overall mean number of work hours per week is 106 hours with significant time spent doing farm work, off-farm work and elder and child care work. We offered a PHQ9 depression screener as part of the questionnaire. A sobering - 39 people indicated thoughts that they would be better off dead or of hurting themselves at least several days in the previous two weeks. These data and other information gathered from the questionnaire and the online session feedback has helped to inform future session topics.
This project’s diverse partnership between University of Minnesota Extension, American Agri-Women, Minnesota Agri-Women’s District 11 Chapter, and social work experts aims to improve the availability, accessibility, affordability, and acceptability of mental health support and other skill-building for women in agriculture and for farm families and to date, we have accomplished just that.
Doris Mold, District 11 Agri-Women, American Agri-Women, Farm Business Mgmt instructor for MAST International - U of MN
Megan Roberts - University of Minnesota Extension - Women in Ag Network
|2020 Extension Risk Management Education National Conference