Sound Ag Advice

A farm or ranch's most valuable asset is not equipment or land, it's the health and well-being of the farmer or rancher, says Sean Brotherson, NDSU Extension family science specialist. In this episode of Sound Ag Advice, Sean discusses tips and resources for anyone experiencing feelings of stress.

What is Sound Ag Advice?

“Sound Ag Advice” presented by the NDSU Extension Service features NDSU Extension specialists and staff talking about current crop and livestock issues. “Sound Ag Advice” is free and can be used in any way you see fit.

Speaker 1: Kelli Anderson, NDSU Ag Communication Specialist
Speaker 2: Sean Brotherson, NDSU Extension Family Science Specialist

Kelli: This is Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension. I'm Kelli Anderson, and I'm joined this week by Sean Brotherson, NDSU Extension Family Science Specialist. Today, we're going to be talking about how farmers and ranchers who are experiencing signs of stress can cope with that stress and find some resources. So, Sean we know we've got a lot going on in the state right now, from winter storms to commodity prices to possibly dealing with drought from last fall. We know our farmers and ranchers probably have quite a bit of stress piling up on them. If you could say anything to them, what would you want them to know right now?

Sean: I would just indicate that in times of elevated stress, there can be pretty challenging impacts on an individual's physical, mental, and emotional health as well as on their relationships. And the emotional and physical needs of folks who are undergoing stress from the kind of conditions and agriculture that you described are sometimes forgotten during our efforts to manage the farming impacts from external events that are outside of our control. And if there's anything I could suggest to people, it's to remember that you have a wide range of assets on any farm or ranch operation. Typically, we talked about land and livestock and seed and, you know, buildings and things like that as being important assets. But actually, I would argue that the most important asset on any farm or ranch operation is the health of the individuals who are working in that operation. It's your health that allows you to function every day on your farm or ranch operation to make decisions, and particularly to be resilient during times of stress. And just like you rely on your farm equipment, during times of peak operation, like planting season or harvest season, when you really need your equipment to function well. You rely on your health to help you be resilient during times of elevated stress. And so, it's very important to take the time to slow down, maybe to get an assessment of your health. And just make sure that you're taking care of yourself and the people around you, so that you can rely on your health as a critical resource during times of stress.

Kelli: Sean, what are some real-world tips you can give to farmers and ranchers to help them have healthy emotional and physical well-being?

Sean: Yeah, that's a great question. And thanks for asking. I encourage people if they haven't done so recently, to begin with a visit to a healthcare provider. Healthcare providers deal with a wide range of issues, not just physical health, but mental health as well. And so, you can ask for a baseline checkup and assessment of your physical and mental health. And then beyond that, maybe the second thing is to really focus on some fundamental self-care practices, self-care practices that are very important include trying to focus on getting healthy sleep on a regular basis. Sleep provides that energy that we need to handle tasks on our farm or ranch operation, paying attention to your diet, and particularly taking some time for exercise on a daily basis, if you can get it. Exercise helps not only to get us outside often and perhaps to enjoy nature a little bit, but it's very good for our mental and emotional health as well as for our physical health, it helps to reduce depression, helps to increase positive feelings, things like that. And so daily exercise would be something that I would recommend. And then accessing sources of support in your life, just taking some time to identify who do you trust, who are some individuals in your circle that you can maybe talk with on a regular basis, that might be daily, it might be every few days, but someone with whom you can share your thoughts, your worries, your plans, your anxieties, and by doing that, it allows you to process some of the stress that you're experiencing. And also think about ways that you might handle those stresses, maybe other resources that could be available to you and just get some encouragement and support from people around you. So I think all of those things, you know, getting an assessment of your health, focusing on some basic self-care practices, and then accessing sources of support and having supportive conversations are all critical aspects of taking care of your health.

Kelli: And finally, where can people go if they would like more information on farm stress and access to some of the resources you mentioned?

Sean: Fortunately, there's a wide range of great resources out there. I think people can start with our NDSU Extension Farm stress website, you can simply go online and search "NDSU Extension farm stress." And if you click on the "managing stress" link in your search results that will take you to a lot of great print and video and other educational resources on the topic of farm stress.
The state of North Dakota has a great website called Again, that's And that has specifically a lot of resources related to dealing with weather impacts, behavioral health type of resources and programs, things like that. So, I would encourage people to use that website. If you have a need for talking to someone immediately, the organization First Link handles the 2-1-1 hotline in the state which is available 24/7. So through that hotline, if you call 2-1-1, you can get 24/7 counseling, crisis counseling, but they also offer referrals to a wide variety of different types of information and programs that are out there to assist people. So if you're looking for a counselor in your area, if you're looking for help with a substance abuse issue, or if you're looking for some kind of financial assistance specific program, and they can help connect you with all those resources through that 2-1-1 hotline, a couple of other websites maybe to consider the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, of course has a wide range of programs and information available through its website when you're dealing with things like livestock losses or weather impacts on your farm or ranch operation. And then regionally, the states in the Midwest have gotten together and put together a website, that's, again that's, and that gives you access to the collected resources on the topic of farm stress from states all across the Midwest from Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Missouri, Kansas, so I encourage people to use that website as well.

Kelli: Thank you for sharing those resources today, Sean, we hope our farm and ranch families will find them valuable. This has been Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension.