For most of us the holiday season is a time of reflection about events and accomplishments during the previous year as well as remembering the spiritual meaning of Christmas and exchanging gifts with family and friends. In today’s Farm and Ranch Life column I’ve assembled reflections from readers about various columns and personal observations from having produced weekly articles for almost two years.
Each week I receive three to five emails or phone calls from readers, and sometimes more. Approximately half the messages are to request help with various issues, frequently about topics that have been addressed in recent columns.
Most of the messages are from persons who reside in the Midwest. I have received messages from persons in almost every state and some Canadian residents also have contacted me.
Common problems for which people request assistance involve difficulties getting along with family members in farming operations, disputes over estate matters, complicated divorces and depression, listed from most to least common. That people contact me about important matters in their lives tells me the columns are having an intended effect.
I aimed from the outset for the columns to assist the people involved in agriculture with managing their behavioral health and overall well-being. I try to respond to their needs.
While I have been able to personally offer professional services to a few families within reasonable driving distance, I have to refer the majority to service options I can locate in their geographic region. That’s tough, because there aren’t enough counselors, mediators and other specialists who understand agriculture.
There is no directory of trained agricultural behavioral health specialists. There are not enough graduate schools or continuing education programs that prepare psychologists, physicians and other behavioral health specialists to serve the agricultural population.
The columns help me collect information that also is useful for a textbook I am working on about agricultural behavioral health. God willing, I hope to complete it before I disintegrate.
Many college and graduate students, researchers and journalists also contact me. Some are fishing for information for articles, projects or want to “run an idea past me” for feedback.
More than a couple students have tried to cajole me into giving them essential information to write their term papers, theses or dissertations without having to go through the learning process themselves. I am a professor and have been down that road before!
Regional and national publications and radio/television media (I won’t mention them; you would recognize them if I did) approach me almost every week about various topics. I wish more would pay me for my work, like recording interviews for them and contributing to their articles. Maybe I am too “soft” but I fulfill their requests because I feel it’s important to “get agriculture’s story out there.”
Positive feedback keeps me going, such as the following. “I enjoyed your article on Lincoln…I too suffered from bouts of depression…Using it to strengthen us, not debilitate us, is the key.”
“It was with tears in my eyes [as I read] your April 5 article on ‘when bad things happen to farmers.’ I was struck by a pickup…and had five surgeries. Had I not forgiven the driver I never would have healed.”
“Wondering if I could get a copy of the ‘Are farmers the biggest risk takers.’ I would like to hang it in the barn [as a reminder].”
“I recently read your article about [Native Americans] with great interest…The Indians were successful in their [agricultural] methods for many centuries or at least they survived. We have been in our [agricultural] system basically for a couple hundred years. If our system lasts as long as theirs, I will be amazed.”
“Thanks for being Mike—you are being followed by numerous…producers.”
Only one person thus far lambasted me. His comment about my recommendations regarding the Farm Bill was, “Government getting bigger and telling us what to do…they should go to hell.” His other comments were even more descriptive and can’t be printed.
Not everyone will have an enjoyable holiday season. Many farm families in Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, and too many other places are recovering from treacherous tornadoes, lack of sufficient precipitation for their crops this past season and other misfortunes.
Others are struggling to adjust to the loss of loved ones, family strife, health issues and assorted calamities. Christmas and 2014 offer opportunities to review what these circumstances bring to enable us to find renewed purpose.
The holidays should be about becoming better people and better farmers. You, dear readers, have been very kind to me. Thank you for your useful feedback and encouragement. I also thank Shari, Jim and others who have reviewed draft articles; your helpful comments have “saved” me from my mistakes more than once.
May you and your loved ones have a blessed Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or whatever is meaningful according to your beliefs and traditions. And Happy New Year!
Dr. Rosmann lives near Harlan, Iowa. Contact him at: www.agbehavioralhealth.com.
By Mike Rosmann, Ph.D.