Jun 28 2021
MEQUON, Wisconsin – Life on the farm can be isolated and stressful, which is why the state’s agricultural leaders are trying to reach out to farmers.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) hosts online support groups of farmers and farmer couples through its Agricultural center.
Support groups seek to connect farmers in the state, like the Pipkorns in Mequon. Fifth-generation farmer John Pipkorn knows that in rural communities, mental health often comes with a stigma.
“I think the more open and honest and talking about it, I think it will become more accepted,” Pipkorn said.
Pipkorn has also been a paramedic, which gives him a unique perspective on mental health.
“Mental illness is everywhere and it seems to be the root of many problems in society,” Pipkorn said.
John and his wife JoAnn are part of the virtual support groups as peer leaders, they received training through the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“It’s so nice to talk to someone else who might be going through the same thing as you or who can look at her with different eyes,” said JoAnn Pipkorn.
The couple is a peer leader. The support group began as a pilot program this winter as heads of state tried to reach isolated farmers during the pandemic.
“We really wanted to create an idea of an opportunity that would allow farmers to visit each other, talk about the challenges they face, the stress they are trying to deal with,” said Dan Bauer, director of the Farm Center.
The virtual format makes it easy for farmers to join from anywhere in the state.
“It was designed to focus on managing those interpersonal dynamics which can be particularly stressful when you are running a business, you have the stress and the pressure of running the business with your partner,” said Bauer.
After a few months of the pilot program, the meetings will take place once a month, on the fourth Monday of each month. People don’t have to go there every month and can choose where they want to go. They can also do everything anonymously.
“It seems like a great way to get to know this new technology and not feel like it can be intrusive,” said JoAnn Pipkorn.
John and JoAnn are encouraging people to sign up because programs like this have helped them.
“It really helped us find solutions to the problems that we have encountered over the years,” said John Pipkorn.
JoAnn said it was a good reminder that people are not alone.
“A lot of times there’s an isolation that happens on a farm where it might just be the two of you, it might just be you alone, and those thoughts just keep spinning and twirling in your own head and that. it’s just nice to have someone to bounce this stuff around, ”said JoAnn Pipkorn.
Support groups will take place on the fourth Monday of the month starting at 8 p.m.
Any farmer in the state can register before an online meeting.