A few years back, there was this Danish word that jumped into the North American consciousness: Hygge. Hygge is meant to encompass a number of things; a feeling, a setting, a set of behaviours. Hygge evokes coziness in the winter, cuddled up by the fire, and enjoying simple pleasures like a good book and a cup of tea.
I wish there was a word that summed up the feeling, setting, and behaviors of rural life in Saskatchewan in the fall. Harvest. The months when the air is crisp, the beets are pickled, and the scent of fall suppers waft from so many community centres. It’s also the time when combines roam the land day and night.
Farm Life: Idyllic and Challenging
Look, even though I’m a Saskatchewan girl born and bred, I know very little about agriculture. I grew up in Saskatoon and nary gave a thought to where my food came from, nor did I pay much attention to the farm report when my dad was tuned into AM radio. Then I moved out to the country and with the move, started driving long distances across the prairies to commute to work. I started to really appreciate the beauty that our prairie landscape had to offer and really enjoyed watching the fields grow, bloom, and finally the sight of farmers working hard to harvest their crops.
One sight in particular that really warms my heart is when I’m lucky enough to catch sight of a farming family gathered in the field sitting on coolers and the back of trucks, eating dinner together. The farming life can seem idyllic to an outsider, but most folks in Saskatchewan know that it’s neither simple or easy. There are so many factors that have the power to make or break your financial security that are completely out of your control: drought, rain, frost, snow, machinery breakdown. The hours are long, the work is hard, and during harvest, work-life balance goes out the window.
A Mental Health Crisis – and a Response
Recently, there’s been a movement in the ag community towards bringing to light the mental health struggles faced by farming families. In 2018, Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton conducted a national survey of farmers which revealed that 58% of Canadian farmers met the criteria for anxiety classification and 35% met the criteria for depression classification. Compounding the problem is the increased stigma around seeking help for mental health concerns in a community that prides itself on its toughness and strength. Suffering from mental health issues is not a sign of weakness, but unfortunately we live in a world where that stigma continues.
In 2017 Kim Keller and Lesley Kelly, both farmers in Saskatchewan (shout out to SK women farmers!!!), were at the forefront of the movement to end the stigma around mental illness in the ag community and with others, founded the Do More Agriculture Foundation. They have compiled an extraordinary collection of resources for people in the ag industry facing mental health and stress related challenges. Most importantly, they are working to create a culture of acceptance, understanding, and support when it comes to the mental health of ag producers.
Support for Farming Families
The people of Saskatchewan (and the world) owe a great deal to farming families. They are integral to our economy and they provide nourishment to us all. In turn, we need to offer our support back to them by recognizing the unique challenges that they face.
If you’re a member of the ag community and you’re reading this, please know that there are resources available to you if you’re struggling. As promised in the title, I’ve included three resources that you can access immediately for support: a link to the Do More Agriculture Foundation’s website, the farm stress line, and the Saskatoon Crisis Intervention line (accessible to all of Saskatchewan).
Farming is defined by hard work and tenaciousness, but should not come at the expense of your mental well-being. If this harvest is testing your coping ability, please reach out to friends, family, fellow farmers, or your local mental healthcare provider.
Farm Stress Line Call 1-800-667-4442
Mobile Crisis Services Call 1-306-757-0127
Providing Individual, couples, and family counselling with offices in both Langham and Saskatoon, SK. Amber Prefontaine is registered with the Saskatchewan College of Psychologists as a full practice member (#985).