“Life on the farm doesn’t stop:” New partnership providers free counseling for Maryland farmers

MARYLAND – “You’ve gotta get the job done because you have animals depending on you to take care of them,” Poultry Farmer Mary Lou Brown said.

According to Maryland.gov, it’s not just the animals who depend on farmers. Agriculture is the largest commercial industry in the state, contributing millions annually to the economy.

Yet, Poultry Farmer Mary Lou Brown says the pandemic made things stressful for the average farmer. “In order to get your crop you gotta go ahead and put a large investment out in the spring and then hope that by the fall you can get a return on your investment to cover all your bills plus get something to live off of in the end of that,” Brown said.

Thanks to grant funding from the US Department of Agriculture, The University of Maryland Extension will provide six free counseling sessions to farm families in partnership with mental health services in the state. “When you think about the work you’re doing on the farm its very physical. It can be mentally challenging and you’re working with heavy equipment. So being able to have your mind clear and make good and safe decisions is so important,” University of Maryland Extension’s Agriculture Educator Shannon Dill said.

Brown tells 47ABC that although Maple Breeze Farm wasn’t hitting hard by the pandemic sting, things like supply chain issues made things tough for the agriculture industry as a whole. She says that’s why taking advantage of these counseling services will be beneficial to farmers.

“They’ve gotten training from extension folks on the unique stressors farmers are facing and how that may influence the mental health issues they will bring to the provider,” University of Maryland Extension’s Mental Health Specialist Alexander Chan said.

Ultimately, extension personnel say the goal is to build a community of support for farm families because in the words of Mary Lou, “life on the farm doesn’t stop.” “That is part of what we’re hoping to bring people together is not only teaching them about specific topics but sharing these resources so they can take advantage of the strength in their communities,” Chan said.

“That’s the way with us farmers, we keep moving forward. We try to do the next thing in order to get it done,” Brown said.

The University of Maryland Extension additional resources for those who also qualify which includes things like nutritional aid and financial management. That facility they’re partnering with on the shore is For All Seasons in Easton.

Those interested in the counseling services can call (302)-405-4153 or email mdfrsan@umd.edu for more information.

To find out more about farm stress management, click here

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