Tech entrepreneurs rally behind #HereForFarmers campaign to take the stigma out of depression

Farm at Hand

It’s not news that being an entrepreneur is challenging. Nor is the fact that it’s stressful, and those inherent stresses can be a trigger for depression. For the better, depression is a topic being more discussed in the tech community. Brad Feld ‘s personal insight and commentary has provided invaluable leadership on this topic. But this is a significant social issue, not just a tech issue.

For instance, farmers and tech entrepreneurs have more in common than you realize. Both blur the lines between professional and personal lives. Both work long hours and may struggle with mental health issues at some point in their lives. There are plenty of sleepless nights staring at the ceiling, wondering how you’ll deliver a product or make payroll.

In North America around this time of year, farmers’ stress levels begin increasing as they plant the seeds that signal the start of growing season. There’s sizeable risk for potential loss due to uncontrollable factors such as weather and disease. There’s pricing volatility. There’s market volatility. These are all extracting a toll on farmers’ well-being. Adding to the challenge is the fact that while resources for dealing with stress and depression that are often available to entrepreneurs, they are not as accessible to farmers who live in the rural areas.

Vancouver startup Farm At Hand, has decided it can no longer quietly stand idle. The company is running an Indiegogo t-shirt campaign, called #HereForFarmers, to raise funds for farmers’ mental health. The proceeds from #HereForFarmers campaign will be donated to Farm Stress Line a non-profit agency providing crisis intervention services since 1974.

“We have farmers who are working day and night and are quite possibly going through some of the worst times in their lives for whatever reason,” says Farm At Hand Co-founder Kim Keller. “Then there are some consumers turning around and kicking them while they are down, with often misguided ‘facts’ from a select few food ‘activists’. When you’re already feeling alone and hopeless, reading that you’re also a greedy, profit driven murderer, it certainly isn’t going to bring you any amount of hope.” Keller herself is also a third generation farmer. She’s experienced first hand and witnessed the devastating effect of mental health issues in the industry.

Vancouver’s tech community has come together to support the #HereForFarmers campaign.

Recognizing a deep connection with their rural counterparts, Vancouver’s tech community has come together to support the #HereForFarmers campaign. To date, the campaign has raised over $12,000. Donations and contributions have come from individuals at Wavefront, HIGHLINE VC, Spring Activator, Unbounce, Kashoo Accounting System, BlueBat Games, Adobe Systems, and more. But more can be done, and more tech communities from across Canada need to be heard from.

The agriculture industry itself is taking important steps in helping remove the stigma of depression by supporting #HereForFarmers initiative. The likes of FBC, FarmLink Marketing Solutions , Redhead Equipment, and the Barley Council of Canada have agreed to become corporate sponsors, injecting a sizeable donation into the campaign. FBC is going a step further, acting as a matching contributor for the campaign: the company is donating $2 for every t-shirt purchase up to $1,000. The support from both tech and Ag communities are contributing to the campaign’s ongoing success.

The #HereForFarmers campaign will end on April 19. Campaign contributors will receive their t-shirts around the first week of May, coinciding with Mental Health week. If you haven’t already, order your t-shirt and wear them as a sign of solidarity for those who provide us with our daily sustenance. Keller added that, “your t-shirt purchases and cash donations help the farmers who provide us with our daily sustenance to access resources that can help them deal with stress and depression.”

Here are some sobering statistics to consider:

      – In the U.S., the rate of farmers suicides is just under two times that of the general population.

 

      – In the U.K., one farmer a week commits suicide.

 

      – In China, farmers are killing themselves daily to protest the government take-over of prime agricultural lands.

 

      – In France, a farmer dies by suicide every two days.

 

      – Australia reports one farmer suicide every four days.

 

    – India reports more than 17,627 farmer suicides annually.

Much like entrepreneurs, farmers face the dilemma of maintaining a strong front and not being able to share their struggles. Entrepreneurs are often afraid they’ll lose the respect of their peers and perhaps control over their companies. For farmers, admitting depression can alienate fellow farmers or family members, which is why many farmers refuse to deal with the issue. The #HereForFarmers campaign has already started an online conversation about mental health, and many farmers have come forward to share their personal stories in hope to help others who are going through a tough time.

Mental wellness needs to be a conversation that’s open and ongoing every day in every walk of life. This subject is bigger than this one very admirable and ambitious campaign; it’s a societal issue that we can longer afford nor allow to be a social stigma.

John Gray

John Gray

John Gray is the co-founder and CEO of Mentionmapp. As a writer, John cares about keeping the humanity in our stories and conversations about technology. He has a B.Ap.Sc. in Communications and a B.A. in English, both from Simon Fraser University.

  • Kim Keller

    Thank you so much for sharing this initiative and bringing light to a serious problem that affects the farmers who are growing and raising our food!

  • Parker Busswood

    Great job by the team at Farm at Hand to bring attention to such an important issue!

  • Anastasia

    We are sometimes so far removed from agriculture to understand what it takes to produce food for our growing population. Thanks for sharing this story, John. Access to resources to cope with and overcome stress should never be considered a luxury for anyone.

  • Ruby Lin

    Wow – great article John, I never before considered the serious problem mental health has on our farmers. Thank you for spreading awareness and sharing this with us.

  • Julian DeSchutter

    This is awesome, FAH! Mental health and farming could seem like unrelated topics, but clearly they are not. I think that’s the point though. What could seem non-issue to most, can actually be huge with the right angle. It’s great to see a start-up focusing on giving back from the beginning, not just when they are successful!

  • Lynn Shinto

    Absolutely love this initiative by the Farm At Hand team — thank you for bringing this issue up with the startup community, and giving a voice to the farmers that need the love and support that they deserve.

  • maria cuasay

    Wow. This is awful to hear, but thanks for spreading the word.

  • Great initiative Farm-At-Hand! Proper access to mental health services is something everyone should have access to.