Mental Health on the Farm 

Tanya Vander Vecht

Until COVID-19 hit, I truly did not appreciate the balancing act of working from where you live, especially for those with young families. The isolation, tending to work and home when the lines become blurred, being able to pull yourself away from your "work" and give yourself and the ones you love the attention they need. I work as a support professional in the agriculture industry, so naturally, I wondered about the farmers our business supports and how they manage their mental wellness in such a demanding environment which exposes them to the elements I was newly facing.

Farmers have a great deal of additional stress related to their trade. They are up against weather that can threaten their livelihood if it is not conducive to their crops' needs; in livestock industries, animal health and welfare are a top priority and constant concern. Farmers care for their animals and rely on them for their families' sustainability. All of this takes place in a publicized and political environment that does not always support their efforts.

Farmer's carry an additional burden, supporting their communities. The products they produce stimulate and support the local economy and provide products that individuals and families rely on, such as vegetables, fruits, meat, and dairy. Financial stress is paramount in the agriculture industry. Farmers are used to looking at large numbers and taking large risks; finding the right support to help make well-informed decisions is essential in reducing this burden, but not always easy.

When you unpack the realities of life on the farm, you can understand why over 60% of farmers are viewed as more susceptible to chronic stress, and physical and mental illness than the general public, as indicated by respondents to the National Survey of Farmer Mental Health conducted by the University of Guelph, where farmers scored lower than average in terms of resilience (1).

According to recent studies completed by the University of Guelph, 40% of farmers interviewed reported that they do not feel comfortable reaching out for professional help with mental health due to others' perception, their peers (3). Rob Sharkey, the Shark Farmer podcast and (4), asserts a culture of silence within the farming community regarding mental health. He suggests that farmers are expected to be tough and hardworking and that mental health is viewed as a weakness, and this perception makes it harder for them to talk about the issues they are facing. As someone who struggles with mental health, I want to implore you, if you are part of this 40%, to reach out and not bear the weight alone. Stigma is an unfortunate barrier throughout society. The ag industry is not averse to it, but we can begin to remove this barrier by getting help, raising awareness, and speaking out.

Fortunately, in recent years, some amazing people have been working to raise awareness and create resources to support mental wellbeing in the agriculture industry. The Do More Agriculture Foundation ( is a not-for-profit organization that focuses on creating programs, building partnerships, and providing access to resources focused on mental health in agriculture in Canada. The organization's website provides a list of resources in each province; here, you can find local health professionals and organizations that offer support. The Canadian Mental Health Association ( offers services and supports across Canada, such as counselling, support lines, training for managing staff's mental health, and more.

Grain Farmers of Ontario offers webinars and connections to resources, visit their website, and select "Farmer Wellness" (5) to see current and upcoming offerings. The Canadian Agriculture Safety Association has a wealth of resources such as toolkits and blogs that cover specific issues related to stress and healthy relationships on the farm in their Mental Health & Stress section of their website (6). Another great resource is the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs website; they offer a Mental Health for Farmers First Aid Kit on their website (7). Links for all these resources are provided at the end of this article.

The Mental Health Helpline is available 24/7 at 1-866-531-2600

What can you do right now to help yourself or someone around you who may struggle with their mental wellbeing? Here are a few suggestions:


1) Identify FIVE things you can see,

2) Identify FOUR things you can touch

3) Identify THREE things that you can hear,

4) Identify TWO things you can smell,

5) Identify your current emotion; is it different from when you began?




"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can,

and wisdom to know the difference." (9)


We must accept that some things are outside of our control. We do what we can with what we have, but sometimes we need to be brave enough to acknowledge that something is outside our ability to control. Use your energy efficiently by putting it into the things you can manage and complete.


Mental health is important in all walks of life, but the ag industry has its own set of complexities. Within the farming community, a farmer heavily relies on one another. When your tractor breaks down, you call your neighbour for help; why is it any different when the issue is with your wellbeing? It is time to open the conversation, to build bridges where we have previously built walls. For everything you do, I want to thank you! Without farmer's we would not have community, we would not have resource sustainability, and folks like myself wouldn't have the time to explore our interests as we would be too busy worrying about our next meal or tending to the skillful creation of goods from the remains of a hunt.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please share the resources provided here, contact your family doctor, or call a friend.


References and Resources

(1)    Jones-Bitton, A (2016) Submission to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food: Strengthening Canada’s Agricultural Sector - A Canadian Network for Farmer Mental Health. University of Guelph. Retrieved from


(2)    Mental health in the agriculture industry ( 

a.       In the Know – Mental Health Literacy Program for Farmers and the Ag Community -


(3)    Mental health on the farm – Real Dirt on Farming


(4)    Successful Farming (29, May 2019) Mental Health Awareness on the Farm | Ag Influencers | Successful Farming. Retrieved from


(5)    Grain Farmers of Ontario (n.d.) Farmer Wellness. Retrieved from


(6)    Canadian Agriculture Safety Association (n.d.) Mental Health & Stress. Retrieved from



(7)    Mental Health for Farmers; First Aid Kit (


(8)    See Me | Power of Okay (


(9)    Niebuhr, R (n.d) Serenity Prayer. Beliefnet Retrieved from