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CRESTWOOD, Ky. — Debt, weather and unstable prices have become an additional weight on farmers’ shoulders while still providing food for the community. While the stresses of farming can sometimes be too much, Raising Hope is aiming to promote the mental, physical and safety of Kentucky farmers and their families.
Being a farmer means relying on mother nature, being flexible and understanding that there will be good and bad seasons, something fourth generation steward of Foxhollow Farm, Maggie Keith understands first-hand.
“I can remember years where we couldn’t get crops in until very late and so we didn’t have our tomatoes in time, so that’s losing a lot of income when you’re having late tomatoes,” Keith said.
For Keith, taking that stress out is a little bit easier thanks to the community of farmer entrepreneurs Foxhollow has partnered with.
“There’s six of us that can come around a picnic table and say ‘Gosh this has been a hard week, let’s talk about it,’” Keith said. “A Lot of farmers now are just in tractors all day by themselves, with lights to do it at night too and they don’t have that community connection. It’s exactly what we need.”
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles met with Raising Hope Coalition partners regarding the work that has been done to address mental and physical health of farmers. Quarles says it’s a much needed addition, as reports show that from 2004 to 2009, 109 Kentucky farmers died by suicide.
“One of the issues of farming is isolationism that will often go a day or days without seeing our neighbors or friends. We put in long hours, when it’s planting season or harvest season we’ll go 18 hours a day as long as the weather allows it,” Quarles said.
They geared the Raising Hope campaign towards making sure there are resources and tools available for farmers. Keith believes it should start with supporting local farmers.
“Stop going for these global markets,” Keith said. “Use either nonprofit money or government money to pay for the sales of products that are grown here in Kentucky to people that live here in Kentucky.”
Quarles aims to do this by promoting local farmers’ markets that kick off this month across the state of Kentucky.
“We have 170 plus farmers’ markets and one of things we are trying to do post COVID is reconnect Kentuckians with their roots and support local agriculture,” Quarles said.
Raising Hope has additional resources on their website, including the national suicide prevention lifeline, substance abuse and mental health services.