By Pat Melgares, K-State Research and Extension news service
Manhattan, KS – From the outside, it may seem as though the success of Kansas farms is evident only by lush crops growing in a field, or burly livestock grazing green pastures, but Margit Kaltenekker knows better.
“The true value of our farm families,” says Kaltenekker, an agricultural and natural resources agent in K-State Research and Extension’s Douglas County office, “depends on the health of our soils and our communities.”
In late 2022, Kaltenekker was approached with an idea to put on a mental health workshop for farmers, spurred by data indicating that “Kansas has a 45% higher rate of farmers taking their lives than any other state in the country,” she said.
But, she notes, “multiple stressors affecting farmers and farm families – continued supply chain shortages forcing increased prices for fertilizer, chemicals, part and other inputs; combined with ongoing drought – have created the perfect storm,” Kaltenekker said.
“We soon realized we cannot address farmers’ mental health and wellness without also addressing deeper, root causes,” she said.
K-State Research and Extension will host three upcoming workshops to address issues facing Kansas farm families. The series, Whole Farm Health: Building Resilience from the Field to the Farmer, will be held on three upcoming Thursday evenings:
- Feb. 23 – Regenerating Soil Health One Field at a Time.
- March 2 – Increasing Farm Financial Resiliency.
- March 9 – Sustaining Personal Mental Health and Wellness.
All three sessions will be held at the Grace Community Church in Overbrook, Kansas from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Admission is free and a meal will be provided.
More information and registration is available online at https://whole-farm-health.constantcontactsites.com.
“These workshops offer an opportunity to pull together as a farm community and address strategies for building more resilient farm systems through diversified cropping systems, incorporating cover crops, and grazing, as well as simple methods to identify indicators of mental health in ourselves or our loved ones who are suffering,” Kaltenekker said.
In addition to K-State Research and Extension, workshop sponsors include the Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Soil Health Alliance, Frontier Farm Credit, Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Douglas County Conservation District and the Kansas Watershed Restoration and Protection program.
More information is also available by contacting Kaltenekker at 785-843-7058, or firstname.lastname@example.org.