Posted by JoHana Harcourt on June 09, 2023

Farming can be challenging – and while the conversation around mental health in agriculture is not a new one, the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of opening up these conversations and mobilizing our resources to provide increased mental health supports in agriculture.  If you’re wondering what other farmers are experiencing – and how they are coping, a recent study from researchers Rochelle Thompson, Dr. Briana Hagen, Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton shines light on the topic through interviews with 75 farmers and industry professionals in Ontario. Read on to learn about their findings!

Seeing the forest for the trees

One of the most common stressors farmers talked about was the all-encompassing nature of farming. Because farmers mainly talked to others involved with their farm, and spent most of their time on the farm, they described difficulty seeing life outside of farming. One of the most common coping strategies farmers endorsed was to leave the farm or find some way of separating farm work with life. Strategies ranged from taking vacations to designating the dinner table as a farm free zone, where conversations could be about anything but the farm.

The grass isn’t greener 

Another source of stress was comparison between different types of farmers. Farmers compared themselves based on practices (e.g. organic, antibiotic free, conventional) farm size, and industry (e.g. supply managed). For every comparison one participant made, a different participant would make the opposite comparison, both saying the other type of farmer had it easier. One common strategy for coping with farming stress, however, was to talk to each other. Farmers found talking to each other, regardless of whether they were in the same commodity/farm type, helped them to recognize that they are not alone in facing these stresses.

Little control over physical factors but greater control over mindset 

Many farmers discussed all the farming factors that cannot be controlled – the weather, the markets, government regulation and new legislation, machinery breakdown, etc. Because there is little to nothing that can be done to prevent the impacts of these factors, worry and rumination often set in. However, participants also described mindsets they adopted which helped them cope with this stress, like acceptance, looking on the bright side, and gratitude.

Of course, not all ways of coping that farmers described were positive or healthy. Alcohol use, smoking, and self-isolation were also discussed. In the 2021 Survey of Farmer Mental Health in Canada, fewer farmers used positive coping strategies and more farmers used negative coping strategies compared to the Canadian public.

The results from this research will be useful to inform stress-reduction avenues for farmers. Additional findings and resources from this work can be found at, or on Instagram or Twitter at @ajb_research. This research also led to a study we are currently conducting, investigating Ontario farmers’ ways of coping through crises, like crop and livestock loss due to extreme weather, disease, and pests. If you or someone you know is interested in participating or would like to know more, please contact

Authors: Rochelle Thompson, Dr. Briana Hagen, Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton
Instagram: @ajb_research

Looking for resources related to farmer mental health and wellness? Head to our blog on the topic.