Recently I had a chance to participate in a Facebook Live event with Gerry Friesen and the Stigma Free Society, a Canadian charity working to disassemble stigma around a range of mental health issues. Gerry has a great story - he's a "recovering farmer" who has experienced the full gamut of life in Ag, from the highs to the lows, and knows first-hand the challenges of coping with mental health while carving out a life on the farm. We covered a lot of ground, anchored both in our individual experiences but also in the larger context of mental health for those of us who make this life our home. I would love it if you would join us - and I invite you to share your stories, either directly with Gerry or myself, or in the comments.
Gerry and I initially met when I did an article for The Western Producer about Substance Use Disorder (SUD) in our rural and agricultural communities. As we chatted for that story, I was - again - affirmed in my belief that for those of us who live and work and breathe in this space, community - or connection - is critical. It's one of the homestead's core values, something we put ahead of almost everything else. In fact, so critical to our vision is Community that it has its own line in my accounting spreadsheet - I track our connections as carefully as I track our expenditures and revenues. Every year I set financial goals for the homestead and alongside the money, I set community goals - people to interact with, venues to engage with, partners to grow with. It's foundational.
Agriculture can be a very isolating experience. Heck, LIFE can be a very isolating experience. You don't have to be a farmer to feel adrift - though I do believe that there are some unique challenges in this industry that may make those feelings more common. Whatever your own experience in Ag - or in life - may be, no matter where you come from, what your goals are or how you engage with the world around you, I hope you feel like the homestead is a place of peace, respite and connection - with the land, the animals and the people here. I hope - I truly, devoutly hope - you will feel all the warmth and acceptance I feel when I say to you "Welcome to my frontier."