Business People Fall 2018 - Page 19

COLUMN // AG BEHAVIORAL HEALTH Farmer suicide could hurt food security armer suicide is a public health threat and could hurt our food supply,” said Elisabeth Flynn in a recent issue of “The FruitGuys Magazine.” Flynn is a Philadelphia-based writer and editor who has covered a range of topics, including health and agriculture. In the article she notes that the Farm-to-Table movement of recent years seeks to connect producers with consumers through local farmer markets, community gardens and for- profit cooperative enterprises that collect and deliver farm products from organic and sustainable producers to res- taurants, institutions and directly to grocers. Flynn commented, these methods of farming comprise “a whole- some and noble occupation that provides nutritious whole foods to an often urban clien- tele hungry for authenticity and health.” Flynn makes a case for why farming is difficult and She bases her claim on a contributes to a risk for an consensus of studies which adequate food supply. She says, indicates that persons involved “Farming is a demanding and in farming have a difficult calling that higher rate of suicide provides beauty and than any other occu- independence but pation. She cited a also requires plenty 2016 report released of sacrifice: long by the Centers for hours, little time off, Disease Control and isolation and usually Prevention (CDC), razor-thin operating and which the CDC margins and thus Dr. Mike Rosmann recently retracted frequent financial because the authors AG COLUMNIST instability.” did not adequately Among the most specify their defi- Dr. Rosmann is a significant sources nition of who was Harlan, Iowa, farmer of stress for people considered to be a and psychologist. farmer. engaged in farming Contact him at: www. If and when the are economic pres- sures that can entail CDC releases a revised analysis the loss of the family of their data, my farm, as well as the impression is that they will physical dangers that can lead likely find people involved to tragic events for farmers or in all endeavors considered their family members. to be part of the agricultural And there is another risk, occupation by the USDA (i.e., Flynn says. “Rural farmers and farmers, ranchers, migrant agricultural workers top the laborers, farm workers, fishers, list of people who take their lumber harvesters and related own lives.” activities that result in the production of food, fiber and biofuels), will likely have the highest suicide rate of the occu- pations they examine. Flynn mentioned something I have said: “When all avail- able data about suicide among the agricultural population are compiled together, it still says farmers (using the USDA defi- nition) have consistently high — and maybe the highest rate — of any occupational group.” Flynn also mentions observations of Knesha Rose-Davison, health com- OIN THE CLUB munications director of the Enrollment is NOW open! Don’t delay – register today. AgriSafe Network, an Iowa- Log onto based nonprofit organization that coordinates farmer (and family member) health clinics in many states and in several other countries besides the U.S.: “Balancing an agri- Wapello County 4-H cultural business while still 13011 120th Ave., Ottumwa, IA 52501 prioritizing time with family, friends or other persons can be Cindy Emery – Youth Coordinator difficult.” Phone: 641.682.5491 Flynn says there are concerns Iowa State University Extension and Outreach does not discriminate on the basis of age, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, national origin, about access to health care and pregnancy, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or status as a U.S. its cost because farmers typi- veteran. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Inquiries regarding nondiscrimination cally provide their own health policies may be directed to Ross Wilburn, Diversity Officer, 2150 Beardshear Hall, 515 Morrill “F Wapello County 4-H INSPIRES LEADERS J insurance, cutting into already tight profit margins. Rose- Davidson adds, “Rural areas often lack the breadth of health services that a typical urban area would have.” The National Rural Health Association reported a 2016 study that nearly 700 rural hospitals were at risk for closure and that 83 rural hospi- tals had closed during the time frame: 2010-16. Rose-Davison observed, “This degree of hospital closure puts millions of rural residents at risk of losing much-needed health care services.” Flynn added that the at-risk health care services includes mental health services. Flynn suggests that persons interested in improving behav- ioral health care services for the agricultural population should contact their state and federal representatives and urge them to promote policies and legislation that support farmers and sustainable agri- culture. Flynn also says it is impor- tant “to buy local.” Making intentional choices about where one purchases food and sup- porting local producers helps ensure fresh food, local suppli- ers and establishes connections between the producers and the consumers. Consumers like to know where their food comes from and to support farmers in their communities and nearby areas. Moreover, most of the profit from sales goes to local pro- ducers instead of to other participants in the usual food chain from producer to consumer, such as processors, transportation, warehouses and retailers. Flynn concludes by saying “Making thoughtful choices about where you spend your food dollars is a powerful everyday action that is not only good for your own health but for farmers and the food economy as well.” Road, Ames, Iowa 50011, 515-294-1482, BUSINESS PEOPLE 19