Jun 6, 2022
Florida launches Farmer Stress Awareness Initiative

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) recently launched the Farmer Stress Awareness Initiative.

The FDACS initiative, announced by Florida Agricultural Secretary Nikki Fried June 2 at Plant City-based berry grower Wish Farms, is a holistic outreach campaign to raise awareness of mental health challenges and resources for those in the agricultural community, according to a news release.

Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, behind lectern, introduces the Farmers Stress Awareness Initiative. Photo: FDACS

“The pressures of keeping our food supply strong when so many factors are outside of a farmer’s control, like supply chain issues, unfair foreign trade practices, invasive pests, and the weather, result in Florida’s agricultural community experiencing tremendous stress,” Fried said at the event. “Unfortunately, these communities are too often forgotten when it comes to mental health care resources and access.

“That must change, and thanks to our partnership with the USDA and the great work being done by Florida organizations, we are tackling this issue head-on,” she said.

More information on this initiative, including an outreach video released at the event, can be found at the FDACS website, and the outreach video can also be viewed on Facebook and Twitter. A video of remarks from Fried, State Attorney Andrew Warren; Catherine Rhea, vice president 211 of the Heart of Florida United Way; Clara Reynolds, president and CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay; and James Peterson, vice president of sales and marketing at Wish Farms, are also online.

The videos will air in digital markets across the state as part of the campaign.

FDACS, the State of Florida, 211 of the Heart of Florida United Way and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) are partnering on the initiative.

“We are a company that’s celebrating 100 years this year,” Wish Farms’ Peterson said. “So, we are a company that is very cognizant of the pressures the agriculture industry carries with it. Factors such as labor, rising costs ⁠– input costs, transportation costs, supply costs ⁠– foreign competition, and unpredictable weather.  That’s why we’re continuing to support mental health through what we do.”

State Attorney Warren said Florida’s agricultural community is not immune to the crisis.

“Farmers are under so much stress these days – the financial stress of family farming and difficulty accessing behavioral health resources,” Warren said in the release. “We need to make sure we are doing everything we can to support our farming communities.”

Last year, the USDA awarded a $500,000 grant to FDACS for the initiative. FDACS and the UF/IFAS are partnering to train public school ag teachers, Florida 211, 4-H and Future Farmers of America to recognize the signs of farm stress.

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