Managing the stress of the harvest

September 9, 2021

A harvester working in the corn field up close

If there’s anything the last couple of years have taught all of us, farmers and non-farmers alike, it’s that nothing is certain. Due to the pandemic, many of the things we took for granted, travel, school, or public events came to be associated with levels of stress most of us had never experienced before. Cultural anxiety became the norm. The need to take a time out for a personal breather is ever persistent.

The effects of farming on mental health

For farmers and others working in ag, we can add harvest stress to the mix. In a good year, when Mother Nature cooperates, providing healthy crops   that don’t have any trouble growing farmers are optimistic, thinking about a profitable harvest and ROI for all their hard work. But what about when things aren’t going as planned?

This past year in particular hasn’t been an easy one for Canadian farmers. Across the west, abnormally hot, dry weather stunted crop development, meaning that for all the hard work farmers put into their fields, they’re harvesting less out of them. Compounding the heartache for many are additional issues caused by massive forest fires. Many of the rail lines many farmers rely on for transporting harvests to market were damaged, roads were closed leading to extensive delays, shipping capacities were reduced, and additional restrictions put in place to reduce future risk. That’s a lot to deal with.

Stress management for farmers

Thankfully, there are some strategies and tips for managing anxiety, along with organizations that provide mental health support for farmers. The key is to recognize that stress is real and taking care of mental health is important. To help you see what we mean, we’ve compiled a few quick tips, courtesy of Do More, The Do More Agriculture Foundation.

1. “You do you.”

Physical activity is an important component in managing stress of any sort. Whether that’s as simple as going for a jog down a country road in the evening, or a high impact workout, paying attention to what your body needs physically can have a big impact on your mental health. Just get out there and do it.

2. Talk it out.

As we all know, the farming community is a strong one. We all have similar challenges, and shared stresses. Talking with peers about how things are going, both in the field, and in our lives can really help ease the burden, but helping us realize we’re plowing the same row, so to speak.

To help you connect, Do More even facilitates a Talk it Out program to connect farmers in communities throughout Canada.

3. If need be, talk to a professional

Make no mistake, farm stress statistics are trending upward. We’ve all got our issues or have people in our lives who didn’t get the help they needed, when they needed it. If the stress of a bad harvest is proving to be more than you can deal with, there are numerous organizations ready to help. From Crisis Services Canada, to the Centre for Suicide Prevention or Mental Health Line, reach out—there’s no shame in getting the assistance you need.

Above all else, remember that every new day brings new opportunities for success. Be kind to one another, and to yourself. Farming can be a challenge, but it can also be the most rewarding life there is.