Farmers and ranchers are no strangers to hard times. Producers regularly experience fluctuating commodity prices, trade disruptions and extreme weather events that make their already challenging jobs even harder. The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic disruptions have only compounded the situation, increasing farmers’ stress. But misconceptions about “toughness,” perceived stigma around seeking help, isolation and lack of mental health services in rural communities mean rural residents are often reluctant to discuss the hardships they face and may not know where they can turn for help. Farmers need resources to help them manage their own stress and support other members of their community.

That’s why Farm Credit, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and National Farmers Union (NFU) have joined together with Michigan State University Extension (MSU Extension) and University of Illinois Extension (Illinois Extension) to create Rural Resilience, a free, public, online training course to help farmers, as well as their families and neighbors, cope with this mounting stress. The course is free and accessible to the public at farmcredit.com/rural-resilience.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the challenges ag producers are facing,” Michael Grauberger, President and CEO of Premier Farm Credit said. “We hope that farmers, ranchers and their families and friends who are feeling stressed will take this free training and use the tools provided to seek support as they navigate these unprecedented times, as well as recognize that asking for help is a sign of strength.”

Taking this partnership a step further, all customer-facing Premier Farm Credit employees will soon have gone through a version of this training tailored to the specific needs of Farm Credit loan officers and other front-line staff. As a result of this training, employees will be better equipped to support customers facing challenging situations, as well as notice and manage signs of stress in themselves.

“We are grateful to be able to offer the Rural Resilience training to all our employees, so they may learn strategies to better communicate with our customers experiencing financial stress, as well as ways to better manage their own stress. The curriculum teaches all participants to understand the sources of stress, manage their own stress, learn the warning signs of stress and suicide, identify effective communication strategies and help connect farmers and ranchers with appropriate mental health and other resources,” said Grauberger.

As a part of the Farm Credit System, Premier Farm Credit offers reliable and consistent credit to agriculture and rural communities, today and tomorrow. Premier Farm Credit is wholly owned by its borrowers and has aggregate loan volume of over $750 million. You can find them on the web at premieraca.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.