LandLogicTM was born in the hallway of my parents’ home as I studied the aerial photo of the sturdy red barn, weathered windbreak, and glistening pond that make up my family’s generational farm. Seeing this picture reminded me of the peaceful, wide-open spaces, and family closeness that defined my picturesque childhood, as well as my father’s own bout with deep despair as he attempted to manage the harsh realities of sustaining a small farm-ranch operation amid the 1980s farm crisis.
What if, I thought, agricultural producers could connect with tools to improve their mental health on their own terms instead of suffering like my dad?
The vision behind LandLogicTM is to involve agricultural producers in the design and implementation of an online, interactive platform that allows farmers and ranchers to discreetly access evidence-based therapeutic tools to improve their mental and emotional wellbeing. This capacity-building model would incorporate the various sectors within the agricultural industry (beef cattle, oilseed and grain, dairy, poultry, fruits and nuts, etc.) with common mental health topics.
Rather than expecting farmers and ranchers to access behavioral health education through traditional channels where stigma runs high, this resource model would reach producers through their core identity: connection to the land.
As a descendant of five generations of farmers, I experienced what Dr. Michael Rosmann calls The Agrarian Imperative: an innate connection to land that drives agricultural producers’ industriousness, resilience, and determination to protect it at all costs. American farmers and ranchers self-reported financial stress, state of the farm economy, farm or business problems, and fear of losing the farm as the top four stressors in their lives. Whether it be for the satisfaction of producing quality food, overseeing the lifecycle of crops, carefully tending to livestock, or the love of the outdoors, farmers and ranchers continue to endure this difficult life because they love what they do.
Rural agricultural producers are at a growing risk of debilitating behavioral illness (anxiety, depression, SUD, etc.), and ultimately suicide when compared to their urban counterparts. Mental health deserts in our most rural or impoverished counties perpetuate these disturbing disparities and geographic isolation, cost of services, and gaps in insurance coverage further exacerbate the problem.
In addition to structural barriers, there are significant cultural obstacles for farmers and ranchers accessing the behavioral health system through its traditional channels. Stigmas are high, mental health literacy levels are often low, and existing care approaches do not adequately consider the nuances of agricultural life and culture. Moreover, providers rarely possess the lived experiences or training to understand the specific challenges that plague agricultural producers.
That aerial photo of our family farm reminds me that farmers and ranchers have a unique vantage point. The land by which they experience joy and struggle also offers the ability to experience life through the five senses. Research shows we retain 10% of our information through reading, 20% through seeing, 30% through hearing, 50% through seeing and hearing, and 80% by doing.
Clinicians could better serve their clients by integrating the daily aspects of farming and ranching into behavioral health education. This approach – which may include a research-based certification process for clinicians – could literally save lives.
LandLogicTM would allow mental health professionals to harness the innovation, industriousness, and creativity of agricultural producers as they solve their own problems, ensuring the health and vitality of future generations.
It is time to rethink how behavioral health connects with farmers and ranchers.
For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or send an Instagram message @kaila.s.anderson
Author: Kaila S. Anderson, LMSW