“My father will be pleased to learn that a significant percentage of my time spent growing up and working on the farm was not wasted.”

“Yes, my mind tended to roam, but what do you expect from an adolescent boy who spent countless hours on a tractor equipped only with an a.m. radio and a bag of sunflower seeds.”

“I can remember the yelling and laughter as if it were yesterday.  On occasion I was known to drift off while driving the bean buggy or the hay baler.”

“It was just for a few seconds—and some subtle screaming from my dad or our hired-hand would perk me right up—but if there were a few rows of beans mowed down or some meandering windrows in our fields, I may have had something to do with it.”

“Aside from the drifting, for the most part, while growing up on the farm I was mentally present and grew to become quite observant of the ecosystem our farm relied on.  In fact, many of my personal values and beliefs were developed on the farm.”

“I learned what it means to be a responsible steward of the land.  I learned why crop rotation, buffer strips, terraces and natural wetlands are critical to sustaining our farm for years to come.”

“In short, I learned how to effectively leverage and enhance the resources around us.  It’s a simple concept, but one that is easily forgotten.”

“Now, as a health care administrator, I have to remind myself to utilize the wealth of professional resources available to us” (Jon Rosmann, Iowa Rural Health Association President’s Message, June 2014).

The Iowa Rural Health Association (IRHA) article inspired me to consider resources that can be used to improve our well-being as healthy and successful farm people.

Farmers and ranchers can become frustrated with “government,” as well as some organizations which are supposed to represent and address their concerns to government, various consumer groups and service providers.  

Consumers and “regulators” sometimes do not fully understand the requirements and rigors of producing food, and other basic agriculturally-produced essentials for human survival, such as plant and animal-grown fibers, lumber, ingredients for medicines and fuel.

As a farmer and also a healthcare provider who is particularly concerned about the safety and health of agricultural producers I can see both sides of the gap in understanding.  I also see many resources that are underutilized, as Jon Rosmann pointed out.  

One of the resources Jon mentioned in his message is the November 19-20, 2014 Midwest Rural Agricultural Safety and Health Conference (MRASH), which will be held in the FFA Enrichment Center at Ankeny, Iowa.  This is a joint conference between the Iowa Rural Health Association, the Iowa Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, and the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health.

It is open to the public as well as the many researchers, healthcare providers, farmers and program administrators from around the U.S. and several foreign countries who usually attend this meeting, even though it is labeled a Midwestern event.  For further information see: www.iaruralhealth.org or www.public-health.uiowa.edu/gpcah

Another meeting also open to anyone who wishes to attend is the 2015 conference of the International Society for Agricultural Safety and Health (ISASH), which will be held on June 21-25 next year in Bloomington, Illinois.  For additional information, see: www.isash.org.

Meetings like MRASH and ISASH bring together many of the diverse people and organizations associated with agriculture to share information, the most recently developed products, ideas about what needs to be addressed and they enrich all who attend.  They remind me of the meetings of our much earlier ancestors at trading locations.

The western world would not have known much about China and vice versa, had Marco Polo not visited the Orient and met with eastern Asians.

Besides the goods the traders brought with them, our predecessors shared their knowledge and cultures.  Everyone benefited.  
The rendezvous of Native Americans and fur traders are another example of beneficial meetings.  The Native American trappers and British, French and American fur traders exchanged more than animal skins, metal implements, smokes, food and drinks. 

They exchanged language skills, knowledge about transportation passages, information about what the meeting participants were involved in, the “low-down” on who was trustworthy and improved understanding of what could make life easier for everyone.

It makes sense for agricultural people to attend conferences, fairs, trade shows and other events that bring government administrators, agricultural researchers and educators, consumers and providers of healthcare and safety programs together.  Understanding improves for everyone.

Farmers and rural community residents, spend some time after harvest looking at resources that can improve your livelihood and well-being.  Determine what you would like to learn more about. 

Make a list of events you would like to schedule this winter and next summer.  Maybe I will see you at one or more of these events.

Michael Rosmann is a Harlan, Iowa clinical psychologist (and fly-fisherman) who lives on the farm he shares with his wife.  Contact him at: www.agbehavioralhealth.com.