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Resources, Tools, Support Provided During Farm Stress Workshops
South Dakota Ag Connection - 05/15/2019

Over time, the impacts of low markets and extreme weather can take a toll on South Dakota's farmers, ranchers and those who care about them.

In response, SDSU Extension hosted workshops across the state to provide agriculture producers, their family, friends and those who serve them, with the knowledge to recognize and respond to signs of chronic stress, which can result in changes in emotions and behavior.

Uniquely designed, SDSU Extension hosted two separate workshops: one focused on agriculture producers and their families, the other designed for agri-business and service providers.

Led by SDSU Extension staff who received national Mental Health First Aid training, the workshops focused on stress management strategies as well as support strategies when dealing with the impacts of chronic stress or working with those suffering from chronic stress. The first set of workshops were held on April 15, 2019 in Aberdeen, Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City. More workshops will be held on May 23 at SDSU Extension Regional Centers in Lemmon, Mitchell, Watertown and Winner.

"I don't think anxiety or depression is something people readily discuss. It's easier to talk about concerns over the weather or markets -- but these factors, which our farmers and ranchers cannot control - can have a lasting and unhealthy impact on them and their families," says Krista Ehlert, Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Range Specialist, whose position is based in the Natural Resource Management Department within the College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences.

Ehlert was among the team of SDSU Extension staff leading the workshops.

She and the other workshop presenters traveled to Michigan State University to participate in Mental Health First Aid training, to be trained to lead farm stress workshops. They joined more than 100 extension personnel from 20 land grant institutions across the nation.

"The economic and extreme weather challenges, and the impact the resulting chronic stress has on farmers, ranchers and those who care about them, is not isolated to South Dakota. It is nationwide," Ehlert says.

In addition to understanding the warning signs of chronic stress, the workshops provide some stress management techniques, emphasize the importance of self-care and encourage producers to reach out for support from family, friends or professionals.

"Everyone has stress. You often don't know what people are going through. Being aware of symptoms and how to communicate more effectively with people experiencing extreme stress makes a difference because you feel like you can help," Ehlert says.

Attendee feedback from the first workshops emphasized the value in discussing the topic, Stluka added. "As we talked with participants, and from surveys, they kept saying they were glad we brought them together to talk about this. We need to make sure our farmers and ranchers understand they are not alone."

Two workshops will be held May 23 at SDSU Extension Regional Centers in Lemmon, Mitchell, Watertown and Winner.

Communicating with Farmers Under Stress workshop is designed for agri-business professionals and service providers. It begins at 9 a.m. MT/10 a.m. CT until 1 p.m. MT/2 p.m. CT. The workshop is designed to help participants with the following:

- Build awareness around potentially stressful conditions affecting some farmers.

- Learn stress triggers, identify signs of stress, and review helpful techniques for responding.

- Learn techniques for identifying, approaching and working with farmers who may not cope with stress effectively.

- Learn where to go for additional help.

To help cover costs, this workshop is $30 and includes lunch and handouts. To register, visit the Events page at and search Farm Stress Workshop. If your organization or business is interested in having a workshop on site, contact Ehlert at 605-394-2236 or by email at to learn more.

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