Sowing the Seeds of Hope: Providing Regional Behavioral Health Supports to the Agricultural Population

Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
  • Michael R., Rosmann


In 1999, project leaders from seven states (i.e., Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) began to share ideas and resources for providing behavioral health assistance (i.e., mental health counseling and addictions services) to stressed farmers, ranchers, farm workers, and their families. The seven states are among those most impacted by the farm crisis of the 1980s and again by low commodity prices and disasters such as droughts and floods in the 1990s. Project leaders conferred in monthly telephone conference calls and by 2001 began meeting in semi-annual face-to-face meetings to formally agree on a mission, program components, and management structure. Administrative functions were transferred from the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health and Wisconsin Primary Healthcare Association, to AgriWellness, Inc., a regional nonprofit corporation founded to provide technical assistance, grant writing, training of service providers, and other administrative supports. The Sowing the Seeds of Hope program has become a model for the provision of behavioral health supports for the agricultural population, including development of farm stress telephone hotlines, provision of confidential and affordable outpatient mental health and substance abuse counseling, training of professional providers in agricultural behavioral health, training of indigenous farm and rural residents as outreach workers who can respond to disasters of all types, and weekend educational retreats for farm residents. The program has achieved economy of scale by sharing expertise across state boundaries and the formation of a regional administrative structure. Yet, many challenges exist, the greatest of which is obtaining ongoing permanent support for the increasing numbers of uninsured and underinsured people involved in agriculture.

Full article can be found in: Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
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