The Greatest Threat to Farm Families, by Kathy Smith

If someone asked you what you thought the greatest threat to farm families was here in Ashtabula County, what would you say? Would it be the weather, drugs, alcohol, divorce, or both parents working? Or would it be financial stress, materialism, crime, permissive parents or television and movies?

A statewide poll conducted several years ago showed that 51 percent of the men and 44 percent of the women think that the single greatest threat to family life in rural America today is financial pressure.

A community development specialist says that there have been radical changes in farming in recent years. Now it is big business and is very stressful.  Many farmers are saying that years ago farming was fun, but it’s not now. The difference is the stress. The stakes are much bigger than they used to be. Farming is a huge gamble and the stress affects relationships—especially between husbands and wives.

This specialist says that farm couples usually are not equipped to deal with their problems because most farm people tend to be introverted compared to the rest of the population. Introverted people bottle up their emotions and have the attitude that “I have to work it out myself.” Unfortunately, there are times when you can’t work things out by yourself and you need help.

In the general population, about 75 percent of the people are extroverted. Extroverts are more likely to open up about their problems and seek outside help. Introverts usually let a problem burn inside and let it go too long before they seek help. This community development specialist believes that the ratio of extroverts and introverts is reversed among farm people.

Farm people tend to be down to earth, realistic and practical. They tend not to see all the alternatives. Instead they see the current situation and don’t see any way out according to the specialist. Farm men usually are analytical, thinking and objective. They are likely to make a statement of fact such as “We’re going to lose the farm.”  A farm woman is likely to take that statement personally, even though the man didn’t intend to accuse her of anything. It’s just a difference in how they perceive the world because farm women are more subjective.

When stress from whatever is not checked, then it eats into the relationship between the husband and wife. Most of us think that pressure brings people together, we’ll blame it on television and movies, but in real life it makes people withdraw, feeling  a need to blame someone or lash out.

The person closest to them gets the abuse. To the person under stress, the husband or wife becomes part of the problem, not a partner in the solution.

So is there anything we can do about this threat to farm families? One doctor suggests a buffer time to separate day work from evening tasks. It should be something different but enjoyable to you.  For most farm families I know there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done now, but every family is unique so it might work for some. Another idea is to take time for your friends because they can give you advice, be role models and most of all give you support which you need in stressful situations. The doctor warns that trying too hard produces isolation and isolation breeds more stress.


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