Sowing the Seeds of Hope

Farmworkers and their families face severe stress, rural isolation, and limited access to mental health professionals. As a result, this population is high-risk for behavioral health and substance abuse problems. In 1999, seven states came together to create Sowing Seeds of Hope (SSoH) program. Each state operated a website along with a 24/7 crisis hotline providing advice to farmers and connecting them with a wide network of resources specific to their problems. The SSOH program became the model for further funded interventions.

Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas each created a telephone helpline that was partnered with a website for farmers and their families in need of mental health services. Mandatory background for helpline responders was experience in agriculture plus mental health training in order to provide culturally-appropriate assistance. Services were provided in English and Spanish.

Responders provided confidential advice for callers, as well as resources on topics such as:

  • Legal issues
  • Financial issues
  • Disaster assistance
  • How to obtain further mental health services

Results:

During the 14 years the SSoH program was in place, the following results were noted:

  • Telephone calls and email requests for assistance to the hotlines varied over the years, depending on the level of farm economic difficulties and other related occupation-related strains each year; the program’s annual crisis hotlines contacts varied between 10,000 and 30,000
  • Nearly 300,000 people received agricultural mental health education
  • At least 11,000 farm families received vouchers for mental health services and 90% were redeemed for professional assistance
  • Over 5,000 professionals were trained to deliver mental health services to persons working in agriculture
  • 1,800 farm men, women, and families attended SSoH retreats and support groups
  • Over 420 outreach events and over 90 professional training programs were held
  • The program reached over 3 million people throughout the 7-state region with public awareness and marketing campaigns

Population of Focus: Rural farmers and families

Links:

  • Learn more about the Sowing the Seeds of Hope program
  • Learn more about the SSoH funder, AgriWellness, Inc.
  • Read the brief, Rural Behavioral Health Programs and Promising Practices
  • Access the Rural Community Health Toolkit
  • Read the guide, Rural Response to Farmer Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

Date: 2021