Who doesn’t love fall? From leaves changing color to moderate temperatures, it’s a time of year that many of us enjoy. For farmers, fall means harvest: the results of a summer-long labor have finally come to fruition and the long hours of harvesting their toil have barely begun.

Harvest is stressful, there is no doubt about it. Strenuous hours in the field, unexpected delays and the race to get everything done efficiently and effectively are all a part of the season of harvest. For farmers, mental health and stability are topics of discussion that often take a backburner to conversations on yield, weather and progress. However, in such a demanding occupation, mental health and stress should not be overlooked and constantly monitored among loved ones.

Stress in farming comes from much more than just the tillage of soil and harvest of crops. An aging population, advances in technology, meeting consumer demands and viewpoints on immigration and trade are all stress points new to the farmer’s basket of concerns. As farmers get ready for one of the most stressful yet joyous times of year, it is important to remember resources that are available. One such resource is the Wisconsin Farm Center.

Started as the Farmers Assistance Program in 1984, the Wisconsin Farm Center provides trained professionals and resources that are offered at no cost to those requiring assistance. The Farm Center serves Wisconsin farmers and agribusinesses in sustaining and growing our agricultural economy and rural communities.

The Farm Center, which is a part of Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), offers seven core services to those who seek their assistance:

Financial planning – This program assists farmers with cash flow analyses, completing farm feasibility or debt analyses, creating a business plan or helping with debt restructuring.

Farm transitions – In an industry that is predominately an aging population, farmers can receive assistance in all aspects of farm succession planning from business planning to entry and exit strategies. The Farm Center provides supports throughout the transition process while also identifying options for the parties involved in the transfer.

Conflict mediation – In sticky situations, the Farm Center is available for dispute resolution with creditors, family members, neighbors, partners and other agencies by assigning trained mediators to assess and assist the situation.

Herd-based diagnostics – The Farm Center has program veterinarian services and related lab work to help address issues that may be having an impact on overall herd health.

Energy-related issues – For farmers with energy and electrical issues, the Farm Center helps identify rewiring assistance, address power quality, work with the utility and address renewable energy questions.

Minority farmer outreach – In an industry with a high percentage of immigrant labor, the Farm Center has services to minimize language and cultural boundaries and access resources for farm investments, business planning and risk management.

Counseling services – To combat mental health issues in the agriculture field, the Farm Center helps identify low or no-cost counseling options for farmers and their families when needed.

The Wisconsin Farm Center is a no cost, confidential consultation for any challenge, opportunity or barrier facing farmers. They have an experienced, dedicated staff that receives, on average, 2,000 calls per year from farmers of all walks of agriculture.

Times are really changing, and it is no different in the agriculture industry. Recent events in the state’s dairy industry have taught us that it is important not to take our markets for granted. Farmers are being called upon, now more than ever, to communicate and inform the public about the products they produce. Farming has become both a business and personal industry that presents personal, physical and mental challenges each and every day.

As we enter the season of harvest, be mindful of your mental health and never be afraid to reach out for assistance when it is needed. The Wisconsin Farm Center’s toll-free hotline is available weekdays from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 1-800-942-2474, or by email at farmcenter@wisconsin.gov.

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Jackson County Chronicle editor

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