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Farm First, A Helping Hand

By Elizabeth Sipple, VT Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

Everyone on Earth experiences stress at one time or another. And with the converging crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, price insecurity, and changing markets it is no surprise that even savvy and resourceful farm families may need some extra support. But you don't have to be alone with your problems! Farm First is a Vermont -based program focused on providing farmers and their families, with FREE support, resources, and information to reduce stress.  The program is currently expanding to include farmworkers, as well. 

If you are a farmer, farm worker, or family member who would appreciate support managing a financial, legal, relational, or mental health consideration you can reach Farm First at:

Call: 802.318.5538 during daytime work hours

Call: 877.493.6216 outside of daytime work hours

Email: Karen Crowley at karenc@farmfirst.org

About now you might be asking yourself: What will actually happen if I call Farm First?

To understand the general process let’s look at an example:

When Karen, a Vermont dairy farmer, called Farm First she was greeted by an agricultural resource coordinator. Karen explained to the coordinator that she was looking for support identifying affordable health insurance. The coordinator offered to do some research and reconnect with Karen for more discussion.  They discussed various options for connecting, including phone and video conferencing, but Karen’s preference was a visit to the farm, which the resource coordinator was able to arrange.  During the first visit they worked together to explore health care options and Karen decided on her next step.   

Karen learned that many people who reach out to Farm First connect to more than one resource and appreciated the chance to think about other ways that Farm First might be able to support her.   By listening carefully, the resource coordinator came to understand that Karen had lost her health insurance due to a recent divorce, and that Karen was feeling anxious and having difficulty sleeping.

This prompted a discussion about Farm First’s free counselling services and Karen learned that many people in her situation find it helpful to talk with a counselor.  She was interested in what the coordinator had to say about learning strategies for managing her stress and sleeping better.  She had not previously considered speaking with a licensed counselor, but she decided that if Farm First could connect her directly to a licensed counselor who understood farming, that she would give it a try.  Farm First then stayed in touch with Karen to make sure that she was advancing with her health insurance application and that the counseling was meeting her needs. 

Above is one example, but Farm First can help connect you to an array of resources, such as:

  • Family Challenges - Relationships, Divorce and Separation, Domestic Violence, Farm Ownership Succession, Parenting, Aging Parents, and Blended Families.
  • Financial Challenges - Disaster Relief, Financial Planning, Grants, and Loans.
  • Legal Challenges – Farm First can connect you with many types of legal support including the Vermont Agricultural Mediation Program (VTAMP), which offers free mediation services to the agricultural community to help resolve disputes before they end up in court.
  • Substance Use Disorders
  • Mental Health - Anxiety, Stress, Depression, Grief, Suicide Prevention
  • Mental Wellbeing – Healthy Thinking, Spirituality, and Resilience

For more information, please contact Karen Crowley by email karenc@farmfirst.org or call Farm First 802.318.5538 (daytime work hours) or 877.493.6216 (after daytime work hours).

Return to Agriview April 2022   

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