By Juana Lopez, VT Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
Climate change, inflation, family, weather problems, droughts, high fuel problems, inflation, family, mental and physical health, and the pandemic are among the many issues and stressors that farmer owners deal with on a regular basis. Sometimes, these problems keep piling up and it can feel as if you are alone with it. Farm First, a Vermont-based program tries to tackle these issues by providing farm owners with confidential and personal services that best suits their needs. They provide resources, professionals, and personal support to address a wide range of issues. For example, this issue could include financial concerns, alcoholism, illness, and many more.
One of the programs that Farm First Provides is The Farm First Peer Network. The Farm First Peer Network is a group of diverse farmers from around the state who have been trained in active listening and accessing resources. Sometimes, it's only having another farmer who can understand what you’re going through that can make a difference. These trained peers can be a first call when things start to go sideways. They can help talk you through a situation, build on your past successes, brainstorm possible solutions, or make a referral for accessing other resources or counseling.
Some Farmer Peers are still in training, but Farm First will have 16 trained and ready farmer peers by the end of February. They hail from all corners of the state and participate in all forms of farming including dairy, cattle, fruits, and vegetables, and integrated.
Currently, the primary way to find a peer is through the interactive map at: https://farmfirst.org/peer-support-network (You can also find a link at farmfirst.org). Once you click on the link, you will notice that there are pins on a map. Each pin indicates a farmer peer with their name, city, and style of farming and a little description about themselves. This allows you to be able to connect with a farmer peer that best suits the type of problems you are facing and be more personal for each individual. Once you submit a form, that will be your first connection with a peer. You will be able to choose from there the forms of communication with the peer whether it be in-person, on the phone or virtually. Over time, you’ll get to know our peers by seeing them making presentations with us at agricultural conferences and events.
The Farm First Peer Network is valuable and important because it allows farmers to know that they are supported and valued for the type of work they do. The most important thing is to help reduce the levels of stress farmers may be facing with the help of other community members and resources.
For more information on connecting with a farmer peer, please reach out to Leanne Porter at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (802)-277-5060
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