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Poor weather, delayed harvest causing mental health issues amongst Saskatchewan farmers
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Poor weather, delayed harvest causing mental health issues amongst Saskatchewan farmers

Mental health concerns are growing amongst the Saskatchewan farming community as producers face a difficult harvest season due to poor weather combined and trade spats.

Adelle Stewart, executive director of the Do More Agriculture Foundation, told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix that she’s heard farmers say that they’re not sure if they want to farm after this year.

“There are no words when you hear that,” she said.

Stewart’s organization is a non-profit that encourages mental health awareness on farms across Canada.

Ongoing trade issues between Canada and China in addition to poor weather that has negatively impacted the Saskatchewan harvest is weighing on farmers, Stewart said.

A provincial crop report stated that only 47 per cent of crops were combined as of Sept. 30, compared to its five year average of 75 per cent.

“An early-winter storm slowed down most harvest operations in the province,” the report said, attributing the majority of this week’s crop damage to hail, strong winds, lodging (when the stems of grain crops are bent over near to the ground), localized flooding and frost.

This fall, early precipitation also delayed farmers’ harvest and damaged their crops.

John McFayden, executive director of Regina Mobile Crisis Services, runs a 24-hour Farm Stress Line for farmers and ranchers in crisis. He said that this fiscal year, the number of calls have skyrocketed from 320 to 757.

“They (farmers) are seen as being somebody that can address issues and deal with issues no matter what it is, and that’s just not the case,” McFayden said.

A survey conducted by researchers from University of Guelph on farmers and mental health concerns found that 58 per cent of respondents met classifications for anxiety while 35 per cent showed varying degrees of depression.

Andria Jones-Bitton, who led the Guelph study, said in an interview with the StarPhoenix that climate change was one of the top stressors for farmers.

Cory Jacob, the province’s crops extension specialist with the Ministry of Agriculture, said that while it’s not the worst harvest recorded, he expects it will be difficult for young farmers who are just starting out in their careers and who have more to lose.

“We’re still waiting and waiting and hoping Mother Nature will cooperate,” he told the StarPhoenix.