Farm stress emphasis at 2019 Great Lakes EXPO

High input costs, low prices and variable weather have increased farm related stress. To aid farmers, the 2019 Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO will have a daylong workshop to identify and deal with stress-related issues.

Ted Matthews
Ted Matthews

The weather and other events of the 2019 growing season have been the equivalent of rubbing salt on our already wounded farmers. Many farm operations began 2019 wondering if it might be their last and, sadly, for some it probably will be joining many other farms that have went out of business over the past several years. Unfortunately, the end does not appear to be in the immediate future, and how long our farms can continue depends on how lean and efficient they can become. Government efforts in the form of trade deals, developing better labor and other regulations may help, but they are uncertain and will most likely be slow in coming. This uncertainty leads producers to wonder what they can do while the agriculture economy works through its current issues.

Paige Pratt
Paige Pratt

To provide some answers, Michigan State University Extension has collaborated with the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO to provide a daylong program during the 2019 Great Lakes EXPO titled, “Securing Your Legacy - Tomorrow's Success Depends on Today's Decisions.” Program topics were developed with input from various Michigan commodity groups and most of the invited speakers are known nationally for their expertise. The program is designed to help identify signals of emotional stress but also give tangible things that can be done to help.

The program is divided into the following three concurrent tracks so it would be advantageous to have more than one representative from each farm.

Rusty Rumley
Rusty Rumley

Track One is on farm succession and includes Paige Pratt and Rusty Rumley who will cover transitioning farms to the next generation. As a lawyer, Rumley will cover the legal aspects while Pratt will speak from her own farm experience on the personal and emotional aspects of transition.

This presentation was determined to be of great enough interest that there is a morning and a repeat afternoon session.

Ben Hartman
Ben Hartman

Track Two is on increasing farm efficiency with Ben Hartman, a farmer and author. His presentation is titled “How to Minimize Waste, Increase Efficiency, and Maximize Value and Profits on Your Farm.” Hartman is nationally recognized for his book, “The Lean Farm,” and even though he operates a small farm, he will share ideas to benefit any sized farm.

This presentation will also be in the morning and repeated in the afternoon.

Ruth Ann Roney
Ruth Ann Roney

Track Three has several general topics including “Hiring and Keeping Great Seasonal Retail Staff” with Ruth Ann Roney from Tuttle Orchards. This presentation is geared toward farm marketers but will have tips for any operator. Next will be Bill Knudson from the MSU Product Center with “Adding Value to What you Already Produce.” Then, Ann Allen and Cindy Birchmeier from Greenstone Farm Credit Services will give a presentation on “Uncovering the Drivers of Profitability on Your Farm.” Lastly, there will be a panel consisting of Bill Grabemeyer, Mike Radom and Stacey Rocklin with a presentation titled “Coping With Impact From Beginning to End.” Grabemeyer and Radom will talk about the thought process growers go through as they prepare and go through farm loss, and Rocklin will talk from her experience working with the children of stressed farm families.

All three tracks will come together for a final presentation by Ted Matthews, the director of Minnesota Rural Mental Health, and he will give a presentation titled “Recognizing Farm Stress and Steps to Take.” Matthews has many years’ experience working with stressed farm families and is a nationally recognized authority on the issue. Matthews and Paige Pratt have offered to meet one-on-one for consulting.  Time slots are limited so those wishing to do so will need to sign up ahead of time.

The 2019 Great Lakes EXPO will take place Dec. 10 – 12 at the DeVos Place Conference Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Even though EXPO has a fruit, vegetable, farm market and greenhouse emphasis, all agricultural producers are encouraged to attend this program on Dec. 12. There is a discounted fee for the Thursday only date. For more information, go to the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO website.

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