Kansas Farmer Opens Up About Farm Stress

In these tough times, Lowell Neitzel, a farmer in Douglas County, is talking about farm stress to erase the stigma around farmers asking for help. For many years he watched his grandpa and father both struggle with handling the stress that comes with farming, believing that was just part of the job and something that “strong farmers” just dealt with quietly and on their own. Lowell and another Douglass County farmer, Scott Thellman were recently featured in a video produced by Douglas County and partner agencies titled “Farm Stress: You’re Not Alone,” which discusses the importance of mental health, seeking help, and knowing the resources available.

“We’re in a different situation than they were,” Neitzel says, “we have so many more resources at our hand and technology is so much more advanced. It almost feels foolish to not reach out and ask for help or even just talk to someone. You just have to swallow your pride and reach out for the betterment of your family and your business.”

Neitzel says one trigger of his stress is just the volatility of the markets and the uncertainty with regards to trade and what’s going on in the markets. He also says that he fights anxiety around getting ready for the busy times of the growing season when he knows he’ll be spending 12-14 hours in a tractor and not getting as much time with his family. For him, it’s important to know that these are the issues that create additional anxiety and stress and then find someone to talk to about it. During peak stress times Neitzel sees a professional but he says that he also talks with his wife Krystale and to another close friend over the phone who is also a farmer.

“I’ve made a pretty good friend,” Neitzel says, “He’s a farmer as well and when we’re having a bad day we just call and check in on each other. If you know somebody is struggling it doesn’t hurt to make a phone call or shoot them a text. Usually I get pretty good results from these calls and a lot of times my stress or anxiety goes away just opening up about it.”

Neitzel believes we can all benefit from building more relationships and being proactive about looking for signals that our fellow farmers are struggling.

“I think there’s some cases that I know that if people would have just asked for help maybe they would still be here today,” he says. “If you see someone struggling, it might not be super obvious but ask the neighbor how they are doing. You see a fellow farmer at the coffee shop or at the store getting a soda, just check on them, it doesn’t hurt to see how everything is going. They’re likely not going to open up right there but just let them know if they need anything just give you a call.”

Check out the Douglas County Extension video featuring Lowell Netizel here.

For more information on handling ag stress visit the Kansas Dept. of Ag’s website KansasAgStress.org.