By JASON SCHELLHARDT AND GRAHAM BINDER
The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), in partnership with the University of Maryland Extension (UME), today announced a new statewide Farm Stress Assistance program designed to provide physical and mental health resources to rural communities. The program is funded by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
“Farming is a stressful line of work, and it is critical that we provide our rural communities with the proper resources to address mental health issues,” said Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “This new initiative will provide much-needed access to mental health services for farmers, producers and their families. I encourage anyone struggling with stress management or any other mental health issues to contact their local UME office.”
The Farm Stress Assistance program will target farmers, farm families, agriculture service providers, health providers and rural audiences to raise awareness, provide training, establish tools and create resources around the topics associated with physical and mental health.
“Our nation’s farmers are truly the backbone of America, and we must take the necessary steps to improve their standard of living,” says Craig Beyrouty, dean and director of UMD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Without prosperous farms and healthy farm families, we narrow the margin of possibility towards feeding and nourishing a rapidly growing global population. Collectively, we need to protect the vitality of our farms so farmers can continue to utilize research to produce and operate at the highest levels.”
This joint effort between MDA and UME will provide stress management training to rural Marylanders, provide direct counseling to families and outreach through social, educational and partner programs. Additionally, a website and hotline will be created to support farm mental health assistance.
USDA NIFA announced Maryland’s grant along with 49 other grants funded for nearly $25 million. NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and Extension programs across the nation to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. In FY year 2020, NIFA’s total investment was $1.95 billion.
For more information on the Farm Stress Assistance Program, please visit UME’s website.