The Coronavirus pandemic was slow to spread to rural New York at the start. Agricultural workers, farmers, manufacturers, and other major industries in rural New York have been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic in unique ways. Distribution interruptions have led to waste, loss, and ultimately financial distress for many in our rural communities.
The connection between stress and economic crisis is well known. This is likely to have a negative impact on New York State’s farm workers. NY FarmNet provides guidance on the key indicators of increased stress on the farm:
- Change in routines: Farmers or members of the farm family may change who attends a market, stop attending regular meetings or religious activities, drop out of other groups, or fail to stop at the local coffee shop or feed mill.
- Decline in the care of domestic animals: Livestock or pets may not be cared for in the usual way.
- Increase in illness: Farmers or farm family members may experience more upper respiratory illnesses (cold, flu) or other chronic conditions (aches, pains, persistent cough, migraines).
- Increase in farm accidents: The risk of farm accidents increases with fatigue or loss of ability to concentrate. Children may be at risk if there isn’t alternative childcare.
- Decline in appearance of farmstead: The farm family no longer takes pride in the way farm buildings and grounds appear.
- Signs of stress in children: Farm children may act out or show changes in their mood/behavior.
- Decreased interest: Farmers or farm families may be less willing to commit to future activities, sign up for gatherings, or show interest in community events.
There is hope... Farmers and the rest of the agricultural community in New York have established themselves as strong, resilient residents of the state. They have showed resistance against weather extremes, low commodity prices, trade issues, and now a pandemic. Farmers are problem solvers by nature. Take that ingrained ability to problem solve and practice coping strategies to work through problems that the Coronavirus pandemic has brought. Here are some helpful reminders:
- Keep Yourself Healthy. Get adequate rest. Eat healthy and drink enough water.
- Eliminate or limit use of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. What may seem to be an immediate relief from the stress may turn into a very stressful situation.
- Stay on a Routine. The pandemic has thrown off many work, family and personal routines. Establish a new, healthy routine for the time being.
- Schedule Time to Relax. Farming can be clearly tough on the body but what many cannot see is that it is tough on the mind too. Schedule time to relax both. Learn about mindfulness for farmers to take it a step further!
- Listen to Each Other. Provide opportunities for other farmers or family members to discuss what they are going through. Find connection and relief in sharing with each other. Coping with COVID-19 related stress is sometimes as simple as finding that a fellow farmer or friend is having a similar experience. You are not alone.
- Get Support. If you are feeling stressed, you are not alone. Accessing support outside of your family and friend is sometimes helpful. In that case, try these two resources:
NY Farmers Net or call 1-800-547-3276 to learn about programs related to Farmer Stress.
NYS Emotional Support Helpline: 1-844-863-9314 7 Days/Week 8am-10pm