Extension educators quickly respond to emotional health issues brought on by drought

Part of Michigan State University Extension’s mission is to quickly respond to emerging issues affecting Michigan residents. The recent drought has certainly given us the opportunity to do so, and we had a great report from Marilyn Thelen, AABI Extension educator, on our July 16 webinar to describe how the work groups in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute have responded.

We also heard Suzanne Pish, Extension educator in the Health and Nutrition Institute, describe how she recognized that severe weather was causing stress in growers dealing with the loss of the cherry crop. The recent drought is similarly affecting farmers and Suzanne is feeling its effects personally. Her Dad is a dairy farmer in southern Michigan where the drought is hitting hard. In addition, Suzanne and her husband raise goats and hay. The drought took one-tenth of their hay crop. She felt both the financial and emotional toll the drought was taking and could relate to the feelings of her dad, the cherry growers and other farmers in the state. Suzanne connected her experience with the effects of stress with her expertise as a social-emotional educator to write an article for our MSU Extension News “Farm-related Depression: Signs and Symptoms.”

A farm blog picked up the story. Fred Peralta, producer/director of WEIU-TV in Charleston, Ill., read Suzanne’s story and invited her for a web-video chat interview on his local agricultural program “Four Rivers Ag Report.” The interview aired July 20. You can watch it here:

This is a great example of how Extension educators and specialists get information out quickly to the MSU Extension News website and that information expands out in many directions. It’s also a great example of taking a core set of program priorities and recognizing how those might apply to audiences that aren’t regularly served by a particular work group. AABI colleagues immediately realized the need to provide technical expertise to groups they routinely serve. Suzanne and other colleagues on the Social-Emotional Health work group saw a need with that same audience, even though they mostly focus on youth and young adults with their programs.

Extension educator Karen Pace contributed to the subject as well with an article for MSU Extension News on the emotional toll severe weather can place on farmers and their families.

Extension educator Holly Tiret and members of the Health and Nutrition Institute are also putting together a workshop dealing with stress, anger management, and financial and credit issues. It will be ready soon to present all over the state.

I’m proud of how quickly our groups have responded to this issue not only in the usual ways but stretching beyond their focal audience.

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