Since I have been writing twice a month for this newspaper, I have meet so many farmers who tell me they read my column. Several farmers on Facebook will reach out and ask, “How’s your day going?” or “What are you up to today?” or “How is it going with your robots?” We chat back and forth, and it inspires me to know they are concerned about what is happening with me. In return, I ask how it is going on their farms. Sometimes I can hear it is a great day, and others times we speak about our anxiety with the stress that low prices and depression can do to our families.
    I try to carry on a conversation while I am doing my chores, knowing that they are doing theirs as well. When we talk together, it is an opportunity to vent, but also a way to support and comfort each other.
    As dairy farmers, we are now heading into the fifth year of depressed prices. Families are working harder than ever to hold on to their farms, and the stress from every angle is making it difficult to be optimistic. We deal with low milk and grain prices; bills that need to be paid to the co-op, vet, electrical company, or bank for the farm payment; and the higher milk hauling prices. The list goes on and on.
    The weather through out 2018 was rough on all of us, too. This year, there has been ice and snow and falling buildings, and now flooding. It makes us all crazy. But there is a point when it becomes a mental health issue. The worst idea is when someone thinks his or her own death could seem like a solution.
    Just recently I learn that farmers have the highest suicide rate in all professions. We all need to help each other. We know through the commonality of what we do that we all have hard times. We are not alone, though there are times when it feels like it.
    I really appreciate when someone asks me how I am doing, knowing that they understand. Now more than ever, it is very important to reach out and identify those farmers who need someone to talk to. It can be frightening and intimidating if you feel they may try to hurt themselves. We need to be able to listen and help find the resources that could save their lives.
    What I have learned is there are a few things anyone can do to help. We all can start the conversation by saying “How are you doing?”
    Here are a few more steps:
    – Let them know they are not alone.
    – Listen to what they are saying.
    – Ask if they have a religious leader who they would like to speak to.
    – Help them look online for help with the Farmer Resource Network: online directory contains more than 750 organizations that work directly with farmers nationwide on a variety of issues.
    – If you feel they might still try to hurt themselves, don’t leave them alone.
    – Call a Hotline: (800)Farm-aid (800)327-6243 or (800)273-TALK (800)273-8255

    If you are having a hard time and need to talk to someone, reach out to family and friends or call a hotline. You can get through this. If you could only sense how important you are to the people who love you. You are far more important than your cows or your farm.
    “There are far, far, better things ahead than anything we leave behind.” C.S. Louis
    Tina Hinchley, her husband, Duane, and their daughters, Anna and Catherine, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots. They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin.  They have been hosting farm tours for over 20 years.