Here's info on a new program to support dairy farmers and their families. A New Ally for Dairy Farmers
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture is very pleased to announce the beginning of a new benefit for Dairy Producers and their Families: FARM FIRST (FFP). The FARM FIRST Program was developed and is operated by the Invest Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, the University of Vermont Extension, and the VT Farm Health Task Force. FARM FIRST now partners with dairy producers to provide information and counseling services that are tailored to their unique and changing needs.
FARM FIRST is intended to improve mental health and productivity among farmers and family members on Vermont’s dairy farms. The first of its kind in the country, FARM FIRST takes the valuable Midwest farmer hotline model to a new level with the addition of statewide licensed clinical staff prepared to confidentially assist with any concern. Farmers’ concerns currently being addressed include:
- Farm transfer or retirement
- Health care services - personal stress, depression, anxiety, sleep deprivation, etc.
- Relationship conflict
- Business challenges
- Personnel management quandaries.
In addition to providing confidential consultation and counseling, FFP staff researches needs and provides current information and pertinent referrals to farmers who work day and night to keep their farms running. Agricultural experts in both the public and private sectors are consulted by FFP staff to provide links and valid information for Vermont dairy farmers. FARM FIRST’s membership card was sent to each Vermont dairy farm in February 2010. To reach a counselor, farmers call a dedicated toll-free counseling line, talk with a counselor about the issue at hand and are offered in-person counseling appointments and concrete help with resources. The FFP website, http://investeap.org/AgHome.htm provides abundant information on a wide range of topics as well as access to the FFP via e-mail.
Dairy farmers say that they tend to business concerns before just about anything else, and they are reluctant to leave the farm except in a dire emergency. Through a phone call or e-mail to the FFP, farmers immediately receive personalized assistance. This assistance allows them to run their businesses with greater focus which in turn reduces the likelihood of accidents. Outreach is ongoing to keep FFP accessible to Vermont’s agricultural community.
Seventeen individuals received assistance from FARM FIRST during its first two months. Word is spreading that Vermont dairy producers now have a confidential place to call with questions, worries and crises. Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Roger Albee:
“We need to find creative ways to support our dairy farm families as they continue to face serious challenges. The FARM FIRST program is an invaluable resource to assist with many difficult situations. We are extremely appreciative of all the groups who have come together to sponsor the program and who recognize the contributions dairy farmers offer to our economy and communities.”
For more information about FARM FIRST, please call the FFP administrative line at 1-888-392-0050.