By Abigail Lutjelusche
1. It’s a family affair
Running a farm is no easy feat. It takes all hands on deck, and for more than 96% of U.S. farms, that means the whole family is involved. Don’t get me wrong, though, agriculture runs in a family’s blood. I have a picture of my dad and me from when I was just a few weeks old. My dad had decided that at my tender age, I was old enough to venture out on our family farm with him. The smile on my face in that picture is priceless.
Stories like these are much the same across family farms in the U.S. Farming takes each member of the family. Some of my greatest memories are from working cattle alongside my dad and sisters. My mom gets her part in, too. She didn’t grow up around agriculture like my sisters and I have, but that hasn’t stopped her from finding her ways to help. She is more than willing to go feed a lamb or to carry odds and ends to any of us at the door. She also does our farm’s taxes each year, which is quite the undertaking.
It may be a lot of work to run a family farm, but to me and many others across the nation, hours spent within agriculture is more than just work. It is a way of life, a place to raise a family, and each moment spent alongside one another is deeply cherished.
2. There are countless hours of sleep lost
Calving season is one of the busiest times of the year at my house. This past winter, there was one particular night when I had just come in from my nighttime chores. I went to my mom’s room and she asked where my dad was. I told her he was asleep on the couch, to which she replied, “Good, let him sleep.”
Nights like these are a common occurrence. Early mornings also find their way into our home quite often. You see though, the amount of sleep lost is nothing in comparison to the lengths we would go to provide the highest-quality care for our livestock and to run our farms.
3. Agriculturists stick together
When I was in fourth grade, my dad had been in the hospital for several weeks. This was right around harvest season. Because he was sick, my dad was running behind on harvest. One day, lots of our neighbors and family friends came together to finish my dad’s harvest. I remember there being at least five combines and multiple grain trailers and semis. You see, my dad was in need, and the agricultural community saw that. They jumped at the opportunity to help us–not because they had to, but simply because they wanted to.
Agriculturists are always just a phone call away from one another. We will always be there for each other. In the good times and the bad, agriculturists stick together.
4. Suicide rates are extremely high within agriculture
Agriculture is one of the most rewarding careers one can enter into. However, it is also one of the most challenging. Agriculturists face uncertainty day in and day out. We question if there will even be a farm next year, or what other tasks we can tackle to stay afloat.
On top of all of this, access to quality mental health care is few and far between in rural areas. Farmers and ranchers are left to battle their demons on their own, and it is seeing its impact.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that agriculture is the fourth-highest occupation for suicide. Further, this rate is nearly five times higher than that of the general population. It’s time we do something about this tragedy. If you or anyone you know needs help, reach out. Check-in on your loved ones, it could save them. Visit the Farm State of Mind website at farmstateofmind.org, where you can find information about crisis hotlines, resources for managing stress, anxiety or depression, and other ways to help yourself or someone you care about.
Abigail Lutjelusch is a Colfax County Farm Bureau member from Richland, Nebraska. Her family runs a row crop and cow/calf operation on their fifth-generation farm. This column was originally published by Nebraska Farm Bureau.