Having a conversation about the South Dakota farm stress crisis

Local News

MITCHELL, S.D. (KELO) – Agriculture plays a big role in South Dakota’s economy. According to the USDA, it provides over 130,000 jobs and over $32 billion to the state.

With that in mind, this past year has been tough on farmers and others in the ag industry due to unfavorable weather and prices. That’s leading some to have the discussion on the farm stress crisis.

From a difficult planting and harvesting season, to a predicted forecast of flooding, those in the ag industry have been facing a tough year.

Thursday several people attended a strategy table called ‘Fostering Communities of Hope.’

“I wanted to create a space where people feel comfortable to explore how they can be a resource in their own community and foster hope in this time that can be trying and full of despair,” South Dakota Synod, ECLA, Bishop Constanze Hagmaier said.

The group discussed the current agriculture economic situation as well as mental health and suicide prevention and what you can do to start a conversation with someone who may be struggling.

“How can we as an individual or community be empowered and what is it that our community can do, so whether it is a small thing, like start a coffee group, or a big thing, how to get my community on 211,” Hagmaier said.

Lars Aga is a farmer from the Vermillion area and attended today’s event.

“I am attending it through our church and as a member of the community, just to watch and get some more input on what’s going on and see what the community is facing,” farmer, attendee, Lars Aga said. “It might not always be the person themselves that may have a problem, it might be a spouse or another individual that may have a problem you could help out with, and always stopping and saying hi can be a difference sometimes.”

Which is why Hagmaier is encouraging others to take that small step and reach out.

“The reality is this has been a hard year with the weather and we are looking at a spring that could be difficult,” Hagmaier said. “My hope is that each and every person walks out here today with the feeling of being empowered to make a difference.”

In addition to talking with neighbors, you can also reach out to the Farm and Rural stress hotline. That number is 1-800-691-4336. It is free and confidential.

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