By Cyndie Shearing
Tennessee Farm Bureau member Matt Niswander is a first-generation beef cattle farmer and family nurse practitioner in the midst of expanding his medical practice in Lawrenceburg. For Niswander, meeting the needs of his patients in rural Tennessee means paying attention to both their physical and mental health, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
“The truth is, if we all sit and think about our lives and our futures in the current societal climate, it is easy to see how any of us could succumb to anxiety, worry and depression,” he pointed out in a recent Focus on Agriculture column. Further, “This virus has made us quarantine physically in our homes, but in rural America we have a long history of quarantining our emotions and compartmentalizing our fears because we are afraid people might see the real us.”
Although helping reframe the conversation about mental health to one of positivity and hope – one patient at a time – presents a challenge, Niswander is up for it. He and his wife, Colbie, started their farm in 2014 as first-generation farmers with no family connections to pave the way. Today, their hard work and perseverance has paid off, as they successfully market Black Angus premium beef direct to consumers.
Niswander is a graduate of the American Farm Bureau’s Partners in Advocacy Leadership program. PAL graduates serve agriculture and their communities in a variety of ways, including but not limited to elected and appointed leadership positions. AFBF created the PAL program to create advocates for agriculture and accelerate personal development for engaged members of the organization.
Cyndie Shearing is a director of communciations at the American Farm Bureau Federation.