UMD Extension educators create holistic tools for farm family health and wellness

February 11, 2021

University of Maryland Extension (UME) has been working tirelessly during the pandemic to assist Marylanders, helping them to manage stress and create resiliency in their personal lives, their communities, and their businesses. Bonnie Braun, professor emerita in the Family and Consumer Sciences program at UME recently developed a guidebook, alongside Maria Pippidis of University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, to help Extension educators build resilience thinking into their agricultural programming. 

Farm and Farm Family Risk and Resilience: A Guide for Extension Educational Programming was created to provide the tools educators need to create interdisciplinary programs that look at not only families and farms, but also at how they interconnect with the greater community, each affecting one another. 

“When an event comes along that’s a stressor, to be able to bounce back from that -- equally to where you were, or in some cases, better -- that’s resilience,” said Braun. “It also means, in terms of resilience thinking, how do you position yourself to handle potential future risk?”

“When the COVID situation hit and the supply chain broke down, debt that farmers were already carrying, compounded with situations that the farmers were already dealing with, had a significant impact on the farmers,” said Jesse Ketterman, financial literacy educator with UME.

While creating resilience for farms is the end goal of the programming guide, getting to a place where individuals and families, and even businesses can adopt new practices to improve their well-being is also a challenge.

“A recent study found that when farmers are going through a major crisis, they were unable to adopt new or different agricultural practices -- even those that might get them out of it --- because they’re having such a physical, mental, and emotional reaction to the crisis,” said Braun.

The intention for these tools is for Extension agents to understand the community dynamic and to implement that into their programming, which is one of the reasons this guide is so timely and impactful. “If you’re going to create an education program for farmers, how can you do it in such a way that you pull together the financial people and the farm management people, with people in the community,” said Braun. “This helps Extension educators to look at the greater situation and what’s going on, and how their programming might be enhanced or even take preventative measures.”

The tools in the guide are organized by health, finance, and individual and personal development. Some of these tools are designed to provide background and integrated information for the educator, while are designed to implement as activities or workshops with farmers or community stakeholders. The guide also provides a set of resources as well as tested assessments that will help educators measure resilience for a farm or family, which is as important to the individual and family and the collective, as it is to an Extension faculty member trying to figure out what is the current situation and how they can help, said Pippidis.

“There is a tendency to get through something like this and then think of getting back to normal, and we keep hearing that with COVID, when actually, maybe we could have a better future. If we looked at it from a risk and resiliency standpoint,we can say that we can expect this stressor to have these types of disruptions, and what can we do now that would support the greater community, and help support the farming population,” said Braun.

This guide takes the physical, mental and emotional piece into account by looking at it from a risk and resiliency standpoint. Recognizing the need for ongoing developing resiliency models, Extension is continually assessing the needs of the community, especially through this pandemic, and changing the way we educate and help Maryland thrive.

To learn more about resiliency practices and to access the guide go to

To learn more about UMD Extension, go to or UDEL Cooperative Extension go to