Quiet Life Stressful for Farmers
October 04, 2004
KOUTS, Ind. (AP) - The quiet country life can turn into a pressure cooker of stress at harvest time as farmers push themselves to their limits, agricultural experts say.
Each autumn, farmers face high stress and an increased risk of injury during their rush to get their crops in before the weather turns.
"When you hit the season, you go full tilt. They're under a lot of pressure to get a lot done in a short period of time,'' Porter County extension agent Eric Biddinger told The Times of Munster for a story published Sunday.
Farmers often work 15-hour days during harvest, and they can be financially ruined if anything goes wrong. "A farmer doesn't get a regular paycheck. Their payday is right now. Anything can happen,'' Biddinger said.
Concerns beyond their control - weather, mechanical breakdowns, an early frost - all add to the stress loaded on farmers. Even good luck can backfire because although dry weather makes harvest easier, it also means fewer breaks from their labors.
But if it bothers them, most farmers keep it to themselves.
"There is this macho attitude of farmers being strong and hard working,'' said Gail Deboy, agricultural safety specialist for Purdue University in West Lafayette.
She said it's important for farmers to recognize the signs of stress-related mental health issues and seek treatment.
"I'm sure it's more difficult for them to admit they're having a problem, but that just worsens their chances for recovery,'' Deboy said.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said studies have shown the suicide rate for farmers is about double the average, The Times reported.
Despite the pressures of the lifestyle they have chosen, most say there is nothing else they would rather do.
"I got into this business knowing that full well, so there's no sense complaining,'' said Dave Rietveld, a Kouts farmer. "Nobody held a gun to my head.''
Martin Kroll, a 67-year-old farmer who has farmed his entire adult life in southern Lake County, said he has learned to take things in stride. He suggests farmers avoid getting too anxious and "trying to farm the whole world.''
Another Lake County farmer, Scott Vandergriend, said this time of year is tough on his wife, his 1-year-old son or 3-year-old daughter, whom he sees little of while working long hours.
"This time of year is crazy,'' he said.