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Purdue Farm Stress Team increases resources available for farmers

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The Purdue Farm Stress Team offers a variety of helpful resources for farmers

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — The Purdue Farm Stress Team is continuing to expand the amount of resources they provide farmers. 

The team is currently made up of over 20 extension educators. 

One of those members is Co-Leader and Purdue Extension Health and Human Sciences Educator, Angela Sorg.

 “So back in 2018 our ag and natural resource educators started seeing, and or getting calls, from local farmers about mental health struggles,” said Sorg. “They were kind of just getting their feet wet on talking about it because it typically has been a taboo topic to talk about around the globe.”

Sorg says they saw the increased need in 2018, which was when the dairy industry started to take a hit. 

“As Purdue Extension does, we knew there was a community need so we were going to figure out  how to meet that need and also stay in our lane at the  same time”  said Sorg. “So we combined a group of educators made up of Health and Human Science educators, 4-H educators and Ag and Natural Resource Educators.”

Sorg said the team was eager to help right away. However, they realized the conversations were tough for some people to have.

"In the beginning it was 'okay we're going to talk about mental health' and then we heard crickets in the room," said Sorg. "Nobody wanted to discuss it and it was a very taboo topic, just because it's not been done before."

Sorg said the Purdue Farm Stress Team got creative to find ways to have those tough conversations. 

"So as the years have progressed we started getting a little sneaky," said Sorg. "We started putting some of our programs in some of the PARP (Pesticide Application Recertification Program) trainings that are a yearly thing that our farmers have to do."

Since the program started, Sorg said it's quickly taken off. 

“I don’t know that I’ve seen an increase in them (farmers) needing the help, because I think there’s always been a need,” said Sorg. “But I have seen an increase in the willingness and openness to talk about it.”

Sorg said their team is working to break the stigma around mental health, especially in the agricultural industry. 

The Purdue Farm Stress Team has continued to expand the resources they offer. One way they're doing that is by putting resources where farmers are. 

“We put ourselves in their tractors during planting and harvest through podcast,” said Sorg. “So they can listen to these podcast and we have had everyone on these podcast from Matt Painter to Ginger Zee on Good Morning America.”

Sorg said it’s been awesome to watch the program grow over the years.

“We had a farmer one time tell us in the very beginning ‘If I would’ve known this program was part of my pesticide training I wouldn’t have attended, but I’m glad I did’,” said Sorg. “We’ve seen over the years that we as Extension need to put ourselves where our farming and agricultural community is.”

On Wednesday, February 1, Sorg says the Purdue Farm Stress Team will be launching another great resource.

“I also serve on Indiana’s 988 committee so we just completed through USDA and ISDA grant support a training for all of the  988 call centers on the specific and unique needs and potential lethal means for  our farming and  agricultural communities," said Sorg. "So what are some different things that we might need to listen for if a farmer identifies when he or she calls in.”

Sorg knows the winter months can sometimes be challenging for farmers.

Coming off harvest season and preparing for spring planting, Sorg says sometimes the "winter blues" can cause seasonal affective disorder.

Sorg says the Purdue Farm Stress Team is there to help you, no matter what season it is.

If you would like to learn more about the Purdue Farm Stress Team, and resources available, click here

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