MSU Extension receives MDARD funding for two-year farm stress efforts

The two-year, $500,000 partner-funded Legacy of the Land project aims to reduce farm losses and aid farmers with their mental health across the state.

Farm equipment in a field at dusk.

In Michigan, reduced farm sales, farm loss and consolidation of farms is creating stress on farmers and their agricultural communities. In a combined effort to reduce projected farm losses while addressing farmers’ mental health and stress levels, Michigan State University Extension has partnered with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) for a two-year project titled Legacy of the Land. The project, which kicked off in September 2020, will provide farmers and the agricultural community with tools and resources to support their farm operations and better equip them to recognize the signs of stress, mental health, warning signs of suicide, and available resources.

This work aims to address issues of farm stress and mental health and assist farms with resource management, such as preventing or easing the process of farm loss, consolidation and farm succession. By combining MSU Extension professionals  with farm business management expertise as well as behavioral health expertise, the team will provide education, resources and referrals to farmers, family members, and agribusiness professionals through one-on-one consulting and online presentations and trainings to build their communication skills and learn how to identify and manage stress.

“Many farmers already come to MSU Extension to consider possible solutions and develop farm restructuring plans,” said Ron Bates, director of MSU Extension’s agriculture and agribusiness programming. “This funding increases our capacity to provide farm transition support and mental health and stress management education to agricultural audiences. This project has a team working collaboratively at the farm-operation level to help people under stress make difficult decisions.” 

In addition to offering online farm stress management programs, MSU Extension will host virtual Mental Health First Aid trainings to agricultural audiences statewide and expand and further promote its teletherapy program in partnership Pine Rest Behavioral Health. The teletherapy program connects farmers and their families to online and phone counseling services with licensed therapists.

“Farmers experiencing high levels of stress or who are experiencing mental health concerns can connect to licensed therapists through this teletherapy referral program, which will also offset costs when a farmer has an insurance gap to behavioral health services,” said Cheryl Eschbach, director of MSU Extension’s health and nutrition programming.

The Legacy of the Land project will include statewide outreach to all agricultural industries and farm sizes. To learn more information, please visit MSU Extension’s Managing Farm Stress website or contact MSU Extension farm stress specialist Eric Karbowski at

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