Coaching farmers to improve their business success and personal happiness is a relatively new and expanding career field.
I receive inquiries once or twice per month from farmer coaches seeking behavioral health information for the farmers and farm families they work with. The requests originate from all over the world.
A farmer or rancher might ask, “Why would I want a coach?” Typically, agricultural producers feel their personal endeavors are nobody else’s business.
Sometimes producers call or email me, but more commonly, aspiring and active coaches contact me. Students, educators, researchers and media representatives also contact me about farmer coaching and related matters.
How farmer coaching emerged isn’t well known. Farmer coaching appears to be a service whose time has come.
Perhaps both the farmers and coaches sense there is a need for this kind of assistance or take cues from business executive coaches. Moreover, there are fitness coaches, life coaches and job coaches for persons with disabilities.
A friend of mine specializes in coaching business executives and managers in Asia and Canada. He owns a company with about thirty employees from several countries who coach corporate leaders from around the world, both one-on-one and in group retreats.
Executive coaches help company leaders with anything that can improve their skills and profitability. Sometimes my friend’s organization conducts employee surveys to learn how company workers “really” feel about their managers in cultures that emphasize politeness and respect toward elders and employers so the managers can usefully address problems that don’t otherwise readily come to the surface.
Frequently, the coaches counsel executives on issues to improve their personal and family livelihoods. Or they may conduct seminars with clients on topics like adapting to a changing global economy or managing their physical and psychological health.
They troubleshoot. They provide honest feedback, outside perspective and advice that can help to improve the company’s economic livelihood as well as the well-being and happiness of its administrators.
Clients can approach almost any topic with a coach. Confidentiality is key.
Clients can tell coaches almost anything and trust that it won’t be shared without permission unless it involves threats to their own or someone else’s welfare, which usually are matters governed by laws. Codes of ethics, standards of practice and licensing are just beginning to be addressed, but all need to be better formulated–and probably will be–as the field matures.
Coaches must possess useful information about business, behavioral health and the area of specialization they are coaching. That’s why most farmer coaches have degrees in a counseling field, business or management and know something about agriculture from personal experience, agriculture coursework or a college or advanced degree involving agriculture.
Most farmer coaches I know do not have more than a master degree in any of the relevant areas, but they know something about all of them. They must have useful knowledge to be credible, even though the luxury of having a confidant is appealing in itself for many clients.
Coaches teach their clients rather than perform psychotherapy or prescribe medication. The shift in emphasis from depending on a mental health expert to fix matters to learning self-management of behavior is a good thing!
The coaches should know the limits of their expertise and not offer advice in areas for which they lack knowledge.
Health insurers typically do not pay for farmer coaching. That doesn’t mean farmer coaches aren’t worthwhile because clients wouldn’t invest in their services if they didn’t feel they benefit.
Usually the fees are paid directly by the client or the business entity.
Farmer coaching appeals to all types of farmers, and not just highly-paid farm owners/managers. Commonly, beginning farmers in small enterprises seek consultations.
Farming coaches are particularly popular among organic farmers. The coaches whom organic farmers seek usually assist them with many issues, ranging from livestock health, pest control, crop production, and marketing to personal adjustment of the entrepreneurs.
Still other farmer coaches specialize in matters such as the siting and construction of feedlots, farm estate planning and farming transitions. The most common requests are for coaches to help farmers, their families and employees with personnel and behavioral health issues.
There is less available information about agricultural behavioral health than about most other areas of agriculture. People request information from me about agricultural behavioral health more than about any other area, with the possible exception of farm transfers.
The emerging discipline of agricultural behavioral health needs to be taught in high school agriculture and community college courses, four-year college and university programs in agriculture, and in graduate training programs in agriculture, behavioral healthcare and medicine.
How to find farmer coaches is difficult. There is no available directory of resources.
Googling key words such as “farmer coaching” and “agricultural coaches and consultants” can lead to information that farmers and their families might be seeking.
Thus far, I haven’t charged people who ask me for information. Hmm, should I call this coaching and charge for these services?
Dr. Rosmann can be contacted at www.agbehavioralhealth.com.