No one will be surprised to read farm and ranch families experience stress from a wide variety of factors, including:
1. Operational stressors (equipment breakdowns, disease outbreaks, accidents, and government regulation),
2. Environmental influences (extreme weather events, early or late frost, irrigation issues), and
3. Family stressors (a child turning 13, caring for an aging loved one, personal health decline).
Many times the factors are outside of the families’ control, potentially adding even more stress. Often, the lines are blurred between family and business issues, making efforts to address them even more difficult.
When money is tight things become more difficult
Tight money is another case that can lead to stress for farm families and the agricultural business. Financial ties between the operations and the families involved are often challenging and can lead to frustrations for young families that they are not yet “on their own.” Mothers and daughters-in-law may also struggle as many times they don’t feel they are a part of the operations. The founding generation can often feel added stress when things aren’t going well, where they believe they should shoulder more of the risk and burden when there are disagreements about spending.
Good communication is key
Good communication is often identified as missing in surveys of multigenerational farm and ranch families, not suprising with these varied and difficult-to-manage emotions. This includes concerns about how arguments are handled, what represents fair criticism, and general family problem-solving.
One of the most stressful intergenerational farming issues reported is the transfer of the family farm or ranch to the next generation. Even talking about the transfer of management and ownership brings up and amplifies many of the stressors already mentioned.
Stress and anxiety in agriculture
Stress factors can and often do affect everyone involved in a family farm or ranch business, even if they are not directly involved in day-to-day operations. A variety of coping mechanisms can help address or mitigate their effects.
Anxiety and depression in individuals
A stigma exists among the general population when it comes to asking for help with anxiety and depression. It has been said many men were raised to be John Wayne types, especially in rural families. They were taught to not ask for help and to not show any emotion. This can lead to cultural obstacles that often keeps people from reaching out.
This is not a new problem, not new to society, and not new to agriculture; however, if we are going to remove the stigma that keeps people and their families from feeling safe and getting to a point where they are okay with asking for help, we must begin by talking about it. As the Do More Ag Foundation promotes: Talk More, Ask More, Listen More.
See AgLegacy.org for an online module addressing anxiety and stress, as well as bulletins and references with suggestions on how to address these challenges.
For more information
An online module, including a recorded presentation covering anxiety and stress, and other information on establishing your ag legacy is available at our website. For more on upcoming modules, past newsletters, and for information about Ag Legacy, see AgLegacy.org. Requests for additional information may be emailed to Information@AgLegacy.org.