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Agricultural News

Brandon Wipf, Director of the American Soybean Association talks about Managing Farm Stress

Tue, 26 May 2020 09:51:43 CDT

 Brandon Wipf, Director of the American Soybean Association  talks about Managing Farm Stress Each Tuesday, the American Soybean Association offers an editorial from a farmer or farmer family member sharing their personal experiences with farm stress. This week’s editorial, the last in the month-long series from the American Soybean Association, is from soy farmer Brandon Wipf of South Dakota. Brandon shares thoughtful tips for managing farm stress that have worked for him. Photo courtesy South Dakota Soybean Association.

Stress. Worry. Anxiety. Words with which many ag producers have become all too familiar over the
years. With recent depressed prices, bad weather, trade wars, and an onslaught of consumer
misinformation, the coronavirus pandemic could not have come at a worse time. Unfortunately, as is
true in many areas of farming, the crisis didn't wait until we were ready or until it was most
convenient. It's here and must be faced, ready or not.

There are so many things in our lives and careers over which we have little or no control. Farmers have
to be better than most at accepting these lack of control issues; but the breadth of the present
problems—the totality of the current crisis—has been staggering and overwhelming for many.
How should we respond, not only to our own stress, but to the stress being felt by those around us?
How can we be anchors for our communities in these tough times, even as we ourselves are badly
impacted by what is happening? Here are some tips that work for me:

1. Take stock of your current situation

This one could be difficult since the realities of your situation are likely contributing greatly to your
stress level. I still think this is an important step because this is where you get it all out on the
table. When facing big problems, I find they almost always shrink in size the moment I gain full
perspective of them. It is likely that a large part of the stress you are feeling comes from fear of the
unknown. While many parts of our current crisis involve things that cannot be known at this time, the
ways in which it affects your operation are more known to you than anyone else on the planet. So, sit
down and start plugging in different numbers, think through different scenarios, and triage your
situation. While you may not get exact answers, you should at least get a better idea of what you're
facing, and there is no downside to that.

2. Build your team

During tough times, it is abundantly clear how reliant we are on the people around us. We lean on
them more than we realize, and in good times it can be easy to take for granted how much they
support us. Even though it may be difficult to gather in person, take this time to identify people in
your life who you can share both your troubles and your triumphs. You are looking not only for
business expertise, but also emotional support. Choose wisely. If you do, your team will be a valuable
resource for the rest of your career.

3. Stay off Facebook

All social media, really. Of course, social media has its place, and I'm certainly not telling everyone
who reads this to delete Facebook; but if you are currently struggling with high amounts of stress,
there are probably better places for you to spend your time. Think of it like this: We all know that
Facebook is really just an algorithm that learns what sort of posts (and more importantly to their
business model, advertisements) you are likely to respond to and engage with. Then they can serve up
a constant flow of the stuff, sealing you in a bubble with yourself and other people just like you—
people who, in many cases, are dealing with the same stress that you are. Now, I'm no psychologist,
and I know misery loves company, but I just can't recommend an echo chamber to anyone dealing
with severe stress. Yes, social media poses a great opportunity for us in agriculture to tell our story,
but those benefits do not outweigh your mental health. Take care of yourself; you can advocate when
you are better.

4. Focus on the needs of others

“How can I do that when my own problems seem so big?” I know. When trouble really comes, it can
be hard to think of anything or anyone else. But if tough times are leading you to stress, you can find a
nice distraction in helping meet other people's needs. Gaining a better perspective on the struggles of
someone else can help with our attitude about our own situation. Helping them out may give us a few
“quick wins” at a much-needed time. And, during this challenging period for our communities, there is
no shortage of hurt and need.

5. Learn lessons for the future

While so much of what we are currently facing is beyond our control, none of us can claim to run a
perfect business, have a perfect family, or live a perfect life. Tough times give us the opportunity to
reflect on the things we have done in the past that have led in some small way to where we currently
are. If you never admit your own shortcomings, you will make the same errors again, which will just
lead to more stress down the road. Do your future self a favor and use this time of social distancing to
grow as a person. If a crisis of this magnitude doesn't shake a few things loose in your life and
business, nothing ever will.

If you or someone else is struggling, the American Soybean Association, state soybean affiliates, and
the United Soybean Board want to help. The soybean industry launched a communications campaign
in May to combat farm stress and offer #SoyHelp. ASA has researched a range of options for seeking
help and managing stress that these groups are sharing both nationally and throughout farm states,
including suicide hotlines and crisis centers. Many of these tips and resources are specific to your state
and also to agriculture, tailored to help farmers and farm families. There are even COVID-19-specific
resources for stress and other concerns. Visit soygrowers.com or briefly use social media to search the
hashtag #SoyHelp for more information.

More details on this campaign and the resources available are on the soygrowers.com homepage or by clicking here: #SoyHelp campaign.



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