Spring Back With Resilience

By: Adrienne DeSutter

Adrienne farms with her husband’s family on a fourth generation corn and soybean farm. They have a small herd of beef cattle, and a small herd of children (two young daughters, with a baby boy on the way).

With a Master’s degree and certification in Counseling, Adrienne works off the farm as a Behavioral Health Consultant, partnering with agriculture organizations to combat farmer suicide and provide education on ag wellness. She presents workshops throughout the country, writes a wellness column for Illinois Farm Bureau, and has appeared on state and national media as an ag mental health expert. Using her Twitter profile, @SowHopeGrowHope, she shares mental health tips and resources, and advocates for healthy minds and empowered farmers. ________________________________________________________________

Wouldn’t it be amazing if each day had the perfect amount of sun and rain for our crops to grow?

Of course, that’s not reality. One day we get a refreshing rainfall, when other days our soybeans are nearly drowned. Some days our corn thrives under a warm sun, while other days the bitter cold stunts their growth. But despite the ups and downs of the growing season, resilient crops seem to challenge adverse conditions and spring back into shape.

And so do resilient farmers.

Resilience isn’t about never experiencing pain or never making mistakes. It’s not about eliminating stress, or always being optimistic. In fact, resilience is really the opposite; it’s about acknowledging that life doesn’t always go the way you want or expect it to, and finding ways to spring back no matter what. A resilient farmer isn’t one who makes every good decision or brushes off every ounce of negativity, he/she’s one who gives him/herself permission to have moments of worry, pressure, or frustration, but also knows how to stay in control and eventually get right back to work.

It’s normal to get angry when your equipment breaks down, or when you find your cattle on the wrong side of the fence. It’s ok to be worried when the economic outlook isn’t ideal, and it’s fine to get down when the weather isn’t cooperating. If you need to be upset, or you need some alone time to think, or you need a break, do it! Allowing yourself to feel and think is how we process stress. But give yourself some limits to stay in control, and figure out what works to help you spring back.

In farming, we talk a lot about being tough, brave, ambitious, and determined. It’s an industry that requires grit, and the rewards of such hard work can be very fulfilling. But it’s important that we don’t mistake being “tough” or “brave” for ignoring conflicts and emotions. Being ambitious and determined means pushing hard, but not so hard that you don’t know when it’s time to slow down. To be resilient farmers, we need to confront and acknowledge our stress, and we need to be responsible enough to set realistic limits and expectations for ourselves and each other. Because the longer we dig ourselves into a hole, the harder it is to spring back out.

Challenging our stereotypes and expectations begins with leadership that isn’t afraid to speak out. American Farm Bureau Federation recognizes how demanding farming can be, and the stresses and mental health struggles that farmers face as a result. Through their partnership with Farm Credit and National Farmers Union, they released a training program called “Rural Resilience,” which helps identify farm stressors, warning signs of crisis, effective communication strategies, and appropriate resources for farm families in need of support. Whether you are experiencing personal stress or you just want to be better prepared to help others through a crisis, all Farm Bureau members are encouraged to participate. You can access the training at https://www.canr.msu.edu/managing_farm_stress/rural-resiliency-online-course-afbf, or contact your county Farm Bureau for more information.

What will you do this season to spring back after stressful moments? Maybe you’ll take a quick walk to cool off instead of yelling at a family member. Maybe you’ll prioritize getting a decent amount of sleep to feel less irritable. Perhaps you’ll talk out your concerns as they happen instead of bottling things up (and exploding later), or you might try setting a time limit for your worries. Add daily gratitude, challenge your negative thoughts, or focus on what you can control instead of dwelling on what you can’t. Whatever your situation, know what sets you off, and be purposeful about your plan to spring back. And instead of planting defeat, root yourself in resilience.