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Raising awareness about farmer suicide

Raising awareness about farmer suicide

A grain farmer isn’t shaving until harvest is finished and wants other producers to follow suit

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

A Michigan grain farmer is taking a hairy approach to raising awareness about farmer suicide.

Nathan Engelhard, who grows about 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat in Unionville, Mich., is participating in a social media campaign called #NoShaveHarvest.

Engelhard’s shaving regimen will be on hold from the first day of harvest until he combines his final bushel.

He will post photos of his face throughout harvest on Twitter and on the No Shave Harvest Facebook page. Other producers have already started sharing their photos too.

Engelhard’s farm received about four inches of rain this week, so harvest will likely begin next week, he said.

This year marks the fourth time the fifth-generation producer has participated in the initiative. He started three years ago to raise awareness about the potential dangers farmers face while working on the farm. This time around, he’s hoping to spark conversations about mental health and bring a focus to farmer suicide.

“The last couple of years I’ve watched neighbors pass away because of an accident or something happened on the farm,” he told Farms.com. “This year, with the farm economy depressed the way it is, there’s a lot of talk about farmer suicide on the rise. No Shave Harvest is a simple way to bring light to everyday America about what farmers are going through.”

The suicide rate for male farmers is higher compared to the general population.

About 32 male farmers and ranchers committed suicide for every 100,000 people in 2015, the Centers for Disease Control says.

Campaigns like No Shave Harvest are helping the industry and those individuals outside it have conversations about mental health.

“It helps start discussions where I can talk about what’s going on in our industry and how it could affect them,” he said. “For example, my sister, who grew up on the farm, took a job as a school teacher in Missouri. She understands what farmers go through, but it isn’t something she has to deal with on a daily basis, so I can talk to her about it.”

What kind of beard does Engelhard expect to have once he finishes harvest?

“I’m not the greatest of beard growers, but I was (using) FaceTime with my sister last year and she didn’t recognize me,” he said.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can provide support or resources for those affected by suicide. Each state also has local suicide hotlines.

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