Op-Ed from Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
As Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, I know farming is not just a career – it’s a way of life. A life on the farm can be very rewarding, but it can also bring hardships and isolation. If a farmer is feeling stressed about their work, it’s not easy to step back or take time off from their job. It can feel overwhelming, and take a toll on their mental wellbeing. Unfortunately, it’s an issue that has impacted too many people in my community.
Over the past few weeks, I have been meeting with members of Ontario’s farming community and specialists to talk about mental health in the sector. I’ve heard first-hand about the unique challenges our farmers face.
Our government is listening. We care about our farmers. They’re an essential part of our communities. We’re proud of the hard work they do to help feed our province and grow our economy. However, stigma around mental health is the number one reason why two thirds of people with a mental illness choose not to seek help. We are working to address this stigma, encourage open discussion, and help connect farmers and farm families with the resources they need.
That’s why my ministry has helped fund research through the University of Guelph to better understand mental health issues and provide effective resources for farmers and those who work with them. That’s also why our government has committed to investing $1.9 billion over 10 years, matched by a federal investment, to make $3.9 billion available to support Ontarians with mental health, addictions and housing supports.
Our farmers often deal with factors beyond their control, including adverse weather, difficult markets, sick livestock, and managing disease and pests. My ministry’s Agricultural Information Contact Centre provides information about programs and contacts for a variety of services. I encourage farmers to use this resource if they need it.
Farmers are tough, resilient people, but they tend to hold their problems close to their chests. I want farmers affected by these challenges to know they are not alone and that it’s OK to reach out and ask for help when daily struggles become too much to bear.
Ontario’s farming community is made up of strong, hard workers who support each other. Sometimes that means lending a hand during the harvest season, and other times, it means lending an ear when the days are long and the future is unpredictable. When things get too hard, talking to a friend or family member can make all the difference.
Our government is committed to creating an Ontario where farmers, and patients, don’t need to be in crisis to receive the mental health treatment they need. We will continue to make mental health a priority and support each other on our journey to mental wellness.
Working together, I know we can address the stigma surrounding mental health. We can support hope and help each other be as strong and healthy as possible.
Grain Farmers of Ontario is the province’s largest commodity organization, representing Ontario’s 28,000 barley, corn, oat, soybean and wheat farmers. The crops they grow cover 6 million acres of farm land across the province, generate over $2.5 billion in farm gate receipts, result in over $9 billion in economic output and are responsible for over 40,000 jobs in the province.