Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Joel talks about the farmer hotline

I’m Joel, the newest addition to the Farm Aid staff, and the Coordinator of the Farm Aid Hotline and Resource Network. I’m the one who responds to the hundreds of farmers who call 1-800-FARM AID or who e-mail us at farmhelp.

I look forward to talking to farmers directly. My basic job is, initially, to listen to what the farmer has to say, take notes, ask questions, and understand the problem. Farmers are a fairly tight-lipped bunch -- after all, they don’t make their living by talking. Calling for help is not something farmers are “supposed” to do -- in fact, we often hear from farm wives because their husbands are too proud to ask outsiders for help. Yet once they’ve taken the often last-ditch step of calling Farm Aid for help, sometimes they just need to speak about the history of the farm, the love, care, and hard work that the family (sometimes several generations) has put into the farm.

Over the last 20 years, Farm Aid has built up a wide-ranging resource network of local, state, regional, and national farm support organizations, which work directly with farmers and farm families to address financial, legal, technical problems, as well as issues of mental health, weather-related disaster, factory farm incursion, and other emergencies. On the hotline, once we understand their situation, what we do is refer them to our partner organizations that are most relevant to the particular issues they are facing. Callers are sometimes surprised to learn that we cannot simply give out money to individuals for running the farm operations -- as a non-profit organization, we are not allowed to do that. Instead, we offer practical, direct help from farm advocates, experts, and allies in your area.

So if you know a farmer who is in trouble, give him (or her!) our number: 1-800-FARM AID.

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