Finding Strength and Normalizing Mental Health

A while ago I was reading through the paper and came across this quote: “The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us but those who win battles we know nothing about.” I thought to myself how much this resonated with where we are in the world and within our own industry right now.

Every day farm families wage their own personal battles – whether it is managing a very volatile financial environment, dealing with increasing regulations in almost every area of their business, meeting the needs of a fickle consumer, or just finding a way to work through the dynamics of running a family business and working with family in today’s world. And, now within the past two years, we have added navigating our way through a worldwide pandemic. It’s challenging at best and a battle at its worst.

Too often, though, we choose to fight those battles alone. In dairy, we are fortunate to have a strong network of people willing to help and offer support. Taking advantage of that network to share challenges, bounce around ideas, and find solutions can help you grow beyond your own skillset and perspective to strengthen both your management ability and your business. Those relationships you share with others in the farm community can also be helpful when you are going through periods of overwhelming stress or anxiety. They can be that sounding board to provide guidance and support to help you work through whatever burdens you are facing.

The most important thing to remember is that none of us are on this journey alone. Anxiety and stress are at all-time highs right now on the farm and across the world. No matter how challenging things get, it is important to make sure we monitor our own anxiety levels and the stress levels of those we love, and we find the help that is needed. Leveraging that network within our dairy community is important now more than ever to support and encourage each other.

Find Your Network at the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit

If you are looking to build your network of colleagues within the dairy industry, a great place to do that is at the Dairy Summit. The 2022 Summit is quickly approaching, scheduled for February 2 – 3 at the Lancaster Marriott Convention Center in Lancaster, Pa. The Center for Dairy Excellence co-hosts this event annually with the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania to provide a mix of management training, industry insight, networking and inspiration appealing to anyone working in the dairy industry. We are excited about this year’s program, which will offer encouragement and guidance to help dairy producers and industry leaders “Go for the Gold” in 2022.

U.S. Olympian Elle Purrier St. Pierre inspired the theme for the 2022 Dairy Summit and will provide the keynote opening address. Elle grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont and is a professional track and field athlete for New Balance. She lives and trains in Boston and Vermont, and she is a 2020 Olympic Finalist (1500m; 10th place), 2020 Olympic Trials Champion (1500m), American Record Holder (Indoor Mile & Two Mile), and 2019 World Championship Finalist (5,000m). During a live, one-on-one interview with Elle, she will share her journey from dairy farmer to U.S. Olympian, how her experience growing up on the farm has impacted her athletic career, and why she is using her newfound platform to educate consumers on the dairy industry.

Featured speakers will share their insight on achieving the highest level of performance and success with real-time industry issues, including what’s next for milk pricing, how to manage multiple enterprises, and ways to build a collaborative culture for generational businesses. The Summit will also include 12 breakout sessions about broad industry issues and real-time herd, farm, and financial management topics. Register to attend at or call the Summit Business Office at 814- 355-2467.

Help Us Normalize the Mental Health Discussion

You can help us normalize the conversation around mental health by completing a mental health survey being conducted by the Center for Dairy Excellence, Center for Beef Excellence, Center for Poultry & Livestock, and PA Beef Producers Working Group. Pennsylvania livestock producers, as well as agricultural professionals who work directly with these producers, are encouraged to take a short survey to share their insight on mental wellness within the Pennsylvania agriculture industry. The surveys are being conducted as part of a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture effort, funded by a USDA Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) Grant, to evaluate how Pennsylvania agriculture producers are managing mental health and stress on the farm. Both surveys are confidential and anonymous, and individuals are encouraged to answer the questions and submit their responses by January 31, 2022.

Question topics include issues affecting mental health in the agriculture sector, obstacles for seeking treatment, community support, warning signs about mental health conditions, and more. To complete the short surveys, visit to access the digital surveys. If you would like to be mailed a paper copy of the survey, please call 717-346-0849 or email The grant partners will use the survey results to establish a baseline and then develop a library of mental health resources for the agriculture community. They will also be hosting several mental health workshops in the spring of 2022. Dates and details for the mental health workshops will be announced in the coming weeks.

At the end of the day, we need to remember we are humans, not robots, and it is okay to not be okay. As an industry, we shouldn’t be ashamed to have these conversations. Battles are won by armies, not by individuals, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Also, be willing to just be that listening ear if someone comes to you for help. If you do know someone who is struggling with mental health, Dr. Charles Gardner who is a consultant for the Center could be a great resource. He can provide a listening ear, a genuine understanding of what you are facing on the farm, and resources to help you move forward.

The Center also has other resources to help you manage stress and recognize the signs in others. Call us at 717-346-0849 or email me personally at to connect with Charlie or find help in other ways.

Editor’s Note: This column is written by Jayne Sebright, executive director for the Center for Dairy Excellence, and published monthly in the Lancaster Farming Dairy Reporter.