An online platform allows producers to anonymously share secrets that are weighing on them
By Diego Flammini
A dairy farmer from Crawford County, Penn. has created an online platform to help farmers get thoughts off their chests.
Jessica Peters started Our Ag Secrets about three months ago to provide the industry with an outlet for anonymous confessions.
Members of the ag industry may be reluctant to share their feelings because of misconceptions surrounding mental health. The anonymous nature of the platform allows farmers to share their challenges more freely, Peters said.
“There are certain ways we’re conservative that are hurting us and I feel this is one of them,” she told Farms.com. “We’re a ‘you don’t talk about it out loud’ kind of culture. Nobody has to tell me who they are, and some people have such massive secrets they just can’t say them out loud.”
One factor in creating Our Ag Secrets came from a family tragedy.
Peters lost her 36-year-old cousin to suicide in July 2019.
He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He didn’t want to talk about his condition but, if he had an outlet to share his feelings, things might have unfolded differently, Peters said.
“I couldn’t get over the fact that, if he had somewhere to say what he wanted to say, that he might still be here,” she said. “Everyone will talk about their high blood pressure but nobody will talk about how they feel.”
Another inspiration for Our Ag Secrets comes from a similar project created by Frank Warren. In 2005, he started PostSecret.
People mail Warren secrets anonymously on a postcard, and Warren selects certain messages to post on his website without revealing who shared the secret.
Our Ag Secrets operates in a similar fashion to PostSecret.
Peters receives about 10 secrets per week. Some are humorous while others are more serious in nature. She chooses one secret and posts it to her social media channels each Monday while keeping the submitter’s identity confidential.
People can usually relate to the secrets she shares. Or readers can see a situation from a different perspective.
One recent secret sticks out, she said.
“A few weeks ago, a man basically admitted to cheating on his wife,” she said. “The way he worded it, you could feel his pain and you realize that not everything is black and white. I got hundreds of messages from people saying that post made them think differently.”
The online platform has also appealed to people outside of agriculture.
Some people have a simplistic idea of farm life when there’s so much more involved, Peters said.
“I think some people think our lives are pretty boring,” she said. “We farm, we get married, we have kids and then life just goes on. Farming is hard enough and then you factor in all the relationships that are part of a farm family and operation.
“I’ve had many people reach out to me to say they didn’t understand the real lives of farmers.”
Anyone interested in sharing a secret can visit Our Ag Secrets, email Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org, contact her on her Facebook page (Spruce Row Farm), or on Instagram @seejessfarm.
If you or anyone you know is having mental health challenges, Farms.com has compiled a list of available mental health resources.