NY FarmNet, a vital support network for New York’s ag community, is extending its reach beyond traditional farm assistance. This spring, the organization took proactive steps to address the mental health needs of tomorrow’s farmers by engaging with ag students at Cornell University.

Through a series of events and initiatives, NY FarmNet demonstrated its commitment to promoting mental health awareness and providing resources to support the well-being of agricultural students.

One notable event was the Art of Agriculture Day, organized by the Sigma Alpha professional agricultural sorority, which took place on the Cornell Arts Quad on April 19. The event served as a platform to showcase various aspects of agriculture, featuring student groups, research labs and agricultural outreach organizations.

Attendees had the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities, enjoy free food, interact with adorable animals and explore unique apparel. Notably, the event also included a “Pie the Professor” fundraiser, with proceeds benefiting NY FarmNet and Sigma Alpha.

Another significant outreach effort was the Cornell University Dairy Science Club (CUDS) Open House at the Cornell Livestock Pavilion on April 11. CUDS members and affiliated ag organizations, including NY FarmNet, came together to provide insights into agriculture and dairy science. This event facilitated meaningful discussions and allowed students to gain valuable knowledge about the industry while fostering connections with peers and professionals.

Mental health awareness took center stage at the Out of Darkness Walk, organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), held on the Cornell University campus on April 14. This grassroots movement aims to raise awareness and funds for mental health issues and suicide prevention. The event featured tabling sessions from local and campus resources, games, snacks and a speaking session, culminating in a walk around the campus.

NY FarmNet engages with Cornell ag students on mental health awareness education

The End of Semester Stress Barbecue was one way NY FarmNet helped ag students recharge. Photo courtesy of NY FarmNet

Recognizing the heightened stress levels faced by students toward the end of the semester, NY FarmNet organized the “Defeating End of Semester Stress BBQ” on April 24 at the Cornell Livestock Pavilion. This event provided students with an opportunity to unwind and engage in stress-relieving activities. Free food, games and access to stress management professionals were available to help students cope with the pressures of academic life.

By offering practical support and resources, NY FarmNet demonstrated its dedication to promoting holistic well-being among ag students.

In addition to these events, NY FarmNet hosted the “Talk Saves Lives” Suicide Awareness and Prevention presentation for Cornell veterinary students on May 1. This informative session equipped participants with the knowledge and skills to recognize warning signs associated with suicide and provided insights into suicide prevention strategies. By empowering students with valuable information, NY FarmNet aims to create a supportive environment where individuals feel comfortable seeking help and supporting one another.

Kendra Janssen, office manager with NY FarmNet, spearheaded the program’s spring student outreach and engagement efforts.

“It’s a stressful environment that these students are entering,” said Janssen. “Some might be taking over family businesses; others will be managing large scale operations. FarmNet can help give these students resources and a tool kit to help manage the stresses of farming, whether it’s family or financial. We hope to create a bigger footprint on the Cornell campus each year as a resource for New York State farmers and ag community.”

NY FarmNet’s engagement with ag students at Cornell underscores the importance of prioritizing mental health within the farming community. By providing education, resources and support, NY FarmNet is playing a crucial role in promoting mental well-being and resilience among future generations of farmers. As the agricultural landscape continues to evolve, initiatives like these are essential for building a sustainable and thriving farming community in NYS and beyond.

NY FarmNet provides free, confidential, on-farm consulting to any farmer, farm family or agribusiness employee in NYS. All services are confidential and free of charge. For more information or to request assistance, call 1.800.547.3275 or visit nyfarmnet.org.

by Adam Howell, NY FarmNet Outreach Director