Ashley Rose took notice when Farm Bureau members started calling her late into the evening during the spring of 2019, one of the most devastating, rain-soaked planting seasons in recent memory.
Those calls weren’t about Farm Bureau-specific topics. “We weren’t talking about events or stuff we were doing in the summer,” said Rose, who has served as an Ohio Farm Bureau organization director for Clinton, Greene, Fayette and Warren counties for the last seven years. “It was because they really needed to connect with someone who understood the ag background and understood their stresses without being financially or relationship dependent on them.”
Rose realized that while she could be a supportive listener, she didn’t have the expertise or tools to be as effective as she wanted to be. With her supervisor’s blessing, she and others took a mental health first aid training course, which proved to be beneficial but not enough.
“We really wanted to give our members a tangible benefit that could really lead to a long lasting impact, ‘’ she said.
After researching the best, most accessible avenues for farmers to comfortably receive the help they needed, three of Rose’s four county boards chose Better Help teletherapy to offer as a benefit for their members.
“BetterHelp ended up being the best option for us. They have thousands of therapists here in Ohio that our farmers could connect with,” Rose said. “We’ve heard a lot of great feedback from folks that felt that they were really getting the tools that helped them become resilient in their day-to-day lives.”
“Ashley very quickly realized that she needed more tools and knowledge to be able to truly help her members who trusted her with such a vulnerable conversation,” said Clinton County Farm Bureau President Christine Shanholtz in her Y Prize nomination letter for Rose. “She has inspired our Farm Bureau board to be advocates for mental health, and I am happy to know we have support for our farmers.”
Jennifer Bullock, president of Warren County Farm Bureau and John Mossbarger, then-state trustee for District 19, echoed that sentiment in their support letters for Rose’s nomination.
“Her leadership skills were truly impressive when she helped Clinton County develop innovative solutions to farmers’ mental health issues,” Mossbarger said.
As the 2022 Y Prize award winner, Rose will be given a platform to share her work and the efforts of her counties to help support farm stress and mental health efforts as part of the award’s goal of lessening the stigma surrounding mental health issues. She was presented with the award at the 104th Annual Meeting of Ohio Farm Bureau in December.
“It is such an honor to be thought of for this award, especially because Yvonne was such an incredible person in our organization,” Rose said. “Mostly I’m hoping that by bringing awareness of this award, it will really encourage people to be brave. I want people to be brave enough to go seek help and know that if they’re using mental health services, it’s not because they’re broken or they’re incapable. It is because they want to be the best that they can be.”
The Y Prize stems from the Yvonne Lesicko Memorial Fund. The fund was created in 2020 to honor Yvonne Lesicko, former vice president of public policy for Ohio Farm Bureau, to support the causes and initiatives that were important to Lesicko.
Farm Bureau advocates for agriculture in big and small ways – from fighting for priority issues such as landowner property rights and the next farm bill, to educating members about the need to study solar leases carefully.