Connecting the Fields - Farm Partners Project

  • Branigan, Glenice

The Farm Partners project is based on non-traditional case finding that uses routine farm visitors to identify distressed farmers in a nine-county service area. The referrals to the project come from breeders, veterinarians, milk truck drivers, cooperative extension agents and school personnel who recognize the signs and symptoms of stress in the farm family. Then these "Farm Partners" link farmers with project staff. The staff, in turn, link identified farmers to the rural service community of which they are a part. In an effort to establish a trusting relationship and to do an accurate assessment, the project staff visits the farm family at their home to identify stress-related needs. This makes the Farm Partners project a truly unique service.

The Farm Partners project is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and is one of the many programs of the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health affiliated with Bassett Healthcare which is located in Cooperstown, New York. This three-year project began on June 1, 1992. There were several factors that lead us to this innovative concept. The national perception of farming is that it has always been an idyllic, healthy, and stress-free occupation. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Farming is actually one of the most stressful occupations in this country. Left untreated, stress fosters such problems as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and violent behavior.

We became involved in this project to strengthen the way to link the farm community with the rural service community. A strong network exists with a wide variety of local community services and farm organizations such as FarmNet (through Cornell University), County Mental Health Clinics, Schools and Cooperative Extensions. Several collaborative efforts have been initiated with other Kellogg Foundation Agricultural Safety and Health grantees including Eastern Washington and Iowa.

Through the efforts of the project evaluator, we have obtained demographics about our nine-county target area. This data has helped with identification of high risk areas and has allowed for early intervention. An expensive formative and summative evaluation of the project will be carried out.

Increases in the number of trained Farm Partners has led to increased contacts with farmers throughout the target area. Phone contacts and on-site farm visits by staff social workers have increased significantly. Our second year has ended with increased awareness of the problems facing farmers by the project staff, as well as rising recognition of Farm Partners among the target population. The project has been so successful to date that securing funding is a priority to continue nd expand already existing services.

This research abstract was extracted from a portion of the proceedings of "Agricultural Safety and Health: Detection, Prevention and Intervention," a conference presented by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Health, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

G. Branigan, New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, Cooperstown, NY.

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