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  • Devin Cornia

Farmer Wellness Matters

By Devin Cornia

By now, many of us have likely seen or heard the phrase “No Farms, No Food." It’s simple, true, and in just four words, emphasizes support for local farms in a culture more connected to phones than to the folks that produce our food. Recent years have been exceptionally trying for agriculture, with record drought, lack of labor and skyrocketing costs for farm supplies. Further, erratic weather patterns and two years of supply chain disruption have thrown wrenches into farmers’ bottom lines. Most of us feel the pain in the checkout line, but we should take a moment to consider the cost to our farmers’ well-being. 

Here are some (not-so-fun) facts: 

  • The average age of farmers in New Jersey has risen to 55-plus 

  • 96 percent of farmers rely on off-farm income to pay the bills

  • On average, farmers and ranchers receive a return of only eight cents out of every dollar spent on food

  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates in agriculture are six times higher than the national average 

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics data suggests that agriculture is statistically the most dangerous industry in America, yet over 10 percent of U.S. farmers lack health insurance

It’s no surprise that farmers are struggling to work through the stress, anxiety, injury and exhaustion that come with running a farm business. To make matters worse, farming can be an isolating profession, requiring long hours that cut into farmers’ social lives. Livestock, field crops and farmers markets don’t have weekends or holidays off and neither do the farmers that tend them.

Currently, there aren’t many resources to keep our farmers healthy and happy. Organizations like Farm Aid and the American Farm Bureau Federation have comprehensive online resources available, but we need to address these issues at a community level. To do so, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey is excited to launch the Farmer Wellness Initiative.

Through this program, we’re working with community partners to establish New Jersey’s only farmer wellness effort, ensuring our farming community has the support and resources needed to stay well. We aim to establish a peer-to-peer farmer support network, develop a network of wellness care providers to offer low-cost/subsidized care for farmers in need, host wellness-focused educational and community-building events and advocate for increased affordable health insurance for New Jersey farmers. 

Interested individuals can visit for more information. We’d be remiss not to acknowledge what prompted this initiative: the loss of a New Jersey farmer, great community member and close friend. I wish these resources had been available when he needed them. Dan, thank you for continuing to provide inspiration and support for us all. You are missed! 

P.S. The term would be more accurate if it read “No Farmers, No Farms, No Food”.

Devin Cornia is the Executive Director at NOFA-NJ.

Originally written for the publication “Natural Awakenings” in Fall 2022. Reprinted with permission.

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