Farming can be a stressful profession, and it’s getting more so as climate change brings increasingly severe weather.
Drought and extreme heat can damage crops. Heavy rain can flood fields and cause fungal growth. A late cold snap can kill young plants.
Paul Lachapelle of Montana State University says the growing risks and uncertainty are taking a toll on farmers’ and ranchers’ mental health.
He and co-researchers surveyed about 120 Montana farmers and ranchers.
“Nearly three quarters noted they were experiencing moderate to high levels of anxiety when thinking about climate change and its effects on their agricultural business,” Lachapelle says.
So he says it’s important to ensure that farmers in remote areas have easy access to mental health services — for example, with telehealth appointments.
And he says they may need resources, training, and financial support to adapt their farming practices as the climate warms.
Lachapelle says the research should sound an alarm about the well-being of those who work to provide food for the country.
“It’s absolutely critical that we pay attention to these, what I would say are warning signs,” he says. “And we need to think about how we can better serve this critical part of our society and economy.”
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media