March 03, 2021

Mending the ‘stress fence’

From American Soybean Association

WASHINGTON — Farming is a stressful job – even in good times – and the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting economic hardships have only added to farmers’ and ranchers’ stress and that of their families, colleagues and communities.

This year during Commodity Classic, the American Soybean Association and Farm Credit will offer a learning opportunity designed to help farmers recognize and respond to signs of chronic stress in themselves and others.

Eric Karbowski, Community Behavioral Health Educator with Michigan State University Extension, will lead this short program that will offer participants self-awareness techniques and provide them with tools and resources to help themselves and others.

The “Mending the Stress Fence” learning center session will be 8 to 9 a.m. March 5. Those interested must register at, where the first 5,000 farmers can register at no cost courtesy of this year’s show sponsors.

This course is beneficial for those experiencing stress or those who live or work with those who may be experiencing stress. In addition, participants are not identified unless they voluntarily share their name in the Q&A chat feature following Eric’s presentation. This is designed to be a safe place for those attending to share personal stories, hear from others with like experiences and hopefully achieve the following skills:

• Recognize signs and symptoms of chronic stress.

• Build skills to recognize and respond to mental health concerns.

• Learn how to respond and where to go for more help and resources.

• Access resources for handling stress for a more productive mindset on the farm.

Farm Credit created this free online training course for farmers and rural community members in partnership with the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, Michigan State University Extension and University of Illinois Extension. The Rural Resilience program was launched in December 2019, but in 2020 the free course, originally available to Farm Bureau and Farmers Union members, became available to everyone.

In May 2020, the American Soybean Association, correlating with Mental Health Month, launched the #SoyHelp campaign, including outreach from the United Soybean Board and state soybean affiliates. The campaign was meant to increase awareness surrounding farm stress and offer the ongoing national and state by state necessary resources and information for guidance and help available across the spectrum of needs.

Both organizations continue to seek ways to be involved in this important issue, including this joint learning opportunity at the Commodity Classic Special Edition digital event moderated by Wendy Brannen, American Soybean Association, and Brittany Jablonsky, Farm Credit.

The full schedule of Commodity Classic events can be found at

The American Soybean Association (ASA) represents U.S. soybean farmers on domestic and international policy issues important to the soybean industry. ASA has 26 affiliated state associations representing 30 soybean producing states and more than 300,000 soybean farmers. More information at

Farm Credit supports rural communities and agriculture with reliable, consistent credit and financial services, today and tomorrow. It has been fulfilling its mission of helping rural America grow and thrive for more than a century with the capital necessary to make businesses successful and by financing vital infrastructure and communication services. For more information, visit