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Vermont Develops Plan to Support the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network

October 20, 2021
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October 20, 2021 | Montpelier, VT - The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM), the Vermont Agency of Human Services (AHS) and the Farm First Program are proud to announce the award of an USDA Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network – State Departments of Agriculture grant.  The Agencies will collaborate with Farm First to provided expanded stress and mental health services to Vermont Farmers.  The program will build on programs of the USDA Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, Northeast of which Farm First is a partner. 

Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts commented; “The health and wellness of our farmers is critical, and this grant will grow the state’s ability to connect with and assist this vital group of Vermonters.  It’s critical that we increase our outreach and assistance to farmers and those that interact with them to address stress and mental health issues for farm owners and employees.”

"Farm First welcomes this opportunity to expand our work through this partnership with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and the Vermont Agency of Human Services,” said Karen Crowley, Farm First Program Manager.  “We're excited to build our capacity to provide needed supports to the agricultural community through innovative strategies such as peer support services.”

The expanded service will include:

  • An outreach program to all farms on the issues of stress, the impact to farming and the services available;
  • A series of trainings for agricultural service providers to assist them to identify and communicate with farmers experiencing stress and connecting these farmers with the services of the Farm First program.  Agency of Agriculture will have an embedded employee to assist staff with training and connection of farmers to Farm First services;
  • Farm First will expand their coordinated service to farmers, sending out a farm coordinator and trained counselors to assess the situation, provide resources and expand follow up services to 12 visits;
  • Farm First will develop a peer support network of farmers and connect farmers with peer supports through interactive mapping on the website;
  • Farm First will develop and coordinate behavioral screenings and follow-up intervention sessions directly with farmers; and
  • Farm First will conduct a needs assessment and analysis of available services for the farmworker community and provide Farm First mental health supports.

“Vermont farmers and farmhands have difficult jobs even in the best of times,” said Mike Smith, Secretary of the Agency of Human Services. “So, when family, health, or business problems crop up - as they inevitably do for all of us - our farmers need access to supports so that they aren’t left to deal with these challenges in isolation.”

“It would be hard to overstate how important this program is for Vermont farmers,” said Emily Hawes, Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health.  “We tend to tell ourselves that stress is no big deal.  But when stress builds and isn’t dealt with, it can lead to serious mental health problems and other illness. The expansion of this grant will help more Vermont farmers cope with the stresses they face and build their health.”

This program will provide services for Vermont and build upon the services that have been provided by Farm First to farmers.  The Agency and Farm First will begin the work with farmers in early November 2021.


Diane Bothfeld | Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets 


Karen Crowley | Farm First Program Manager | 802-277-5316