Access to Health

Supporting Healthy Farmers for a Healthy Harvest

An American farmer petting his dog before planting his crops

Planting, growing, and harvest season can take a toll on farmers. It is important for farmers to prioritize their health during this busy time of the year. 

It’s that time of year again – the time when farm families go a mile a minute, with no time for anything but the crops and the ground. Between prepping the equipment, the seed, the seedbed, not to mention planting the crop when the weather window allows, it doesn’t leave much time for self-care or health management.


But did you know the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports rates for the five leading causes of death in the United States—heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury (including vehicle accidents and opioid overdoses), chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke—are higher in rural communities?

This isn’t the time to ignore the signals your body is giving you. This is the time to take the best care of yourself possible, so you can stay at peak performance and get the crops in the ground when the time is right. That includes managing and preventing some of the most common mental conditions facing farm and ranch families.

Common Mental Conditions Facing Farm Families

These conditions aren’t talked about enough in farm and rural communities.

Stress is one of the key causes of heart issues and high blood pressure. Symptoms can include headaches, irritability, trouble sleeping.

A farmer examining his wheat field

Depression can impact nearly every aspect of life including productivity. Symptoms can include sadness, lower energy, a feeling of hopelessness or emptiness and less interest in things that make you happy.

You may be surprised to learn that anxiety disorder can interrupt sleep, interfere with relationships, make it hard to concentrate. Symptoms can be as small as tightness or fluttering in your chest or “circular” thinking that won’t allow you to think about anything else, or as significant as full-blown panic attacks.

These conditions aren’t talked about enough in rural communities and can be very serious diagnoses, even leading to higher suicide rates. We like the way The Ohio State University Extension described it: Mental health issues aren’t “casserole dishes.” In other words, a rural community isn’t starting a meal train for someone suffering from anxiety or depression, like they would in the case of a cancer diagnosis or heart attack. It’s a thought that puts a spotlight on staying in tune with our family, friends and neighbors.

That’s not to say physical health should take a backseat either. Far from it. Planting and harvest seasons are also the time when farm families are known to put off or reschedule vital health screenings. Prostate exam been on the books for three months, but it’s the first sunny day in a month? Time to go to the field. Mammogram scheduled for a year, but grain has to go to the elevator and the other auger cart driver came up sick? Better put that off “for now.” It’s no wonder rural communities have higher instances of cancers connected to “modifiable” risks – those that could be caught by screenings or healthcare changes.

Still, it's easy to see how health can be put to the side when you’re feeding the world, you and your family. Compounding that is more limited access in rural areas. Sixty million Americans live in rural areas, yet in just a 10 year period, more than 120 rural hospitals closed. That means farm families must be that much more intentional about scheduling and keeping their regular screenings, as well as doing their own self-checks and self-exams, listening to their bodies and addressing issues as they arise.

Bayer is here to help the vital rural communities that feed our bellies and fill our tables, through community outreach, dedicated continual research and development, as well as focused directives designed around supplying rural areas with increased access to health and nutrition information and best practices. Take care out there! 

4 min read