Monday, February 01, 2010

Farmers and Suicide: Help is Available

JoelHere at Farm Aid we are deeply saddened by the recent suicide of dairy farmer Dale Pierson in Copake, New York. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his surviving family. An obituary describes Pierson as a tireless worker and an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed helping friends and other farmers. The family asks that mourners, in lieu of flowers, consider sending a donation to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

We understand that reasons for farmer suicide may be strictly personal and unrelated to farming. However, we also know that the national dairy crisis, now well into its second year, has significantly heightened stress levels for thousands of dairy farmers across the nation. A report from The Daily Mail of Greene County, New York, touches on this reality.

Whatever personal reasons Pierson may have had for taking his own life, we can be sure that they were exacerbated by the crisis that all dairy farmers have been experiencing for more than a year now. No matter how hard they work, the nation's family dairy farmers are losing money every time they milk their cows due to a broken pricing system that fails to take into account the real cost to farmers of producing milk. Often, farmers and their families have no choice but to squarely face and try to fend off the bleak prospect of bankruptcy, foreclosure, and, finally, the erasure of a cherished way of life. Though farmer suicide (and suicide generally) is notoriously under-reported, available evidence indicates that the farmer suicide rate is climbing and likely to get worse as the dairy crisis continues. A Wall Street Journal blog posting, helps to clarify the worsening situation.

Farmers, with the help of their families and friends, must understand that they need not endure an overwhelming situation by themselves. It is crucial to get the word out that help is available. Farm Aid's Farmer Resource Network and Hotline (1-800-FARM-AID) directs farmers to mental health and suicide prevention assistance all over the country. In the Midwest, for example, the Sowing Seeds of Help program directs uninsured, under-insured, and at-risk farmers and farm workers to rural helplines in seven different states. They can also help direct farmers to rural health services elsewhere in the country. Nationally, farmers can find toll-free, 24/7 suicide prevention and emotional crisis hotlines at or by calling 1-800-SUICIDE and 1-800-273-TALK. Spanish speaking callers may use 1-888-628-9454.

Farmers are known for their willingness to help a neighbor who is in trouble. Let's all return the favor before it's too late.


  1. Anonymous2:59 PM

    It's also time for everyone interested in protecting family farmers to join groups such as the Weston A. Price Foundation and the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Let government know we want real food, properly raised, and fairly paid for! (I pay my Amish farmer $7 - $10/gallon for raw cow and goat milk....)

  2. Anonymous12:29 AM

    Farmers need some help in one form or another. This really shouldn't be allowed to go on...Yes the milk price has improved, but after going over the roller-coaster it's going to take a while to improve...Bankers or Farmers....who feeds you?
    Keep helping to save FAMILY FARMS.

  3. Anonymous10:43 AM

    The dairy economy today is similar to that of the late 70's into 80's when tens of thousands of farmers went under. Unlike victims of other catastrophes and traumas (Hurricane Katrina, 9-11) there is little follow-up on the people. What's happened to these farm families? We worked through droughts, low milk prices, etc. until in 1989 we lost our herd in a fire. Tired, angry, depressed- we sold everything else at auction. If I said we never looked back, I'd be lying. Dairying is lonely, dangerous, and demanding. I pray daily for those who have continued.

  4. Anonymous9:50 AM

    Well informed and presented, as usual! Educating consumers to care about what they eat and support the people who produce it is an important step in changing this near-catastrophic situation. Vote with your fork!

    P.S. For another musical shout-out to the farming crisis, check out "Country Life", written by Steve Knightely. Sara Milonovich's version can be heard on myspace!

  5. Anonymous2:03 PM

    Where do we get help? My family and I are a small struggling dairy farm that is deep, deep into debt and have nowhere to go. We hang on for we know no better. My husband works off farm, but still we're sinking more everyday. We don't want to quit. We want to be able to produce a healthy, home-grown product that consumers can feel confident that it's safe and wholesome. We're tired, worried beyond, and feel like it's a losing battle. Not much fight left here. Please spread the word for prayer! We need a real prayer war.