Published on 03/08/23

Supporting farm families through the 2023 Farm Stress Summit

By Jay Stone

The 2023 Rural Farm Stress Summit will be held March 20 at Mercer University.The data revealing farmers’ mental health challenges is sobering to say the least. Faced with unfavorable weather, unfriendly economic conditions, labor shortages and more, farmers of all types often cope with the pressures of their profession in unhealthy ways, including considering suicide.

A 2019 study by University of Georgia researchers revealed that rural Georgians’ emotional and behavioral health suffer as a result of facing constant pressure. A 2022 Mercer University study showed that among first-generation farmers — those who entered the profession without having grown up on a family farm — 61% had considered death by suicide in the 12 months preceding the survey.

On March 20, a group of agricultural and mental health stakeholders will meet at the 2023 Spring Farm Stress Summit to consider opportunities to support Georgia’s farm families in ways that promote improved behavioral well-being. The event will be held at the Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon.

Marshal Sewell, who grew up on a family strawberry farm in south Florida and works for Bayer CropScience, will give the keynote address. The event will include remarks and training sessions featuring Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper, Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Kevin Tanner, Mercer University doctoral candidate Stephanie Basey, Professor Anna Scheyett from the UGA School of Social Work, UGA Extension Southwest Area Health Agent Jennifer Dunn and Assistant Professor Christina Proctor from the UGA College of Public Health.

Scheduled topics include farm stressors, tools available for coping, and strategies for positive collaboration.

Community leaders are invited to join the conversation to explore how their organizations can engage in this effort and help better serve Georgia farm families. This free event is intended for medical providers, counselors, church leaders, extension agents, policy makers, lenders, local elected officials, county/city municipal staff, pharmacists, school system personnel, agricultural producers, and agribusiness owner/operators.

The Farm Stress Summit is hosted through a partnership between the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UGA Cooperative Extension, UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences, UGA College of Public Health, UGA School of Social Work, Mercer University, Georgia Farm Bureau, Georgia Foundation for Agriculture, Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, and Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center.

For event details and to register, visit the Support Local Farmers: 2023 Farm Stress Summit webpage.

For more information, please contact Maria Bowie ( or 706-542-8782) or Lucy Ray ( or 706-342-2214). Partners and organizations are welcome to be a part of the summit’s share fair/exhibit area at no cost and are encouraged to contact Ray or their local Extension agent to reserve space. The deadline to register is March 17.

Members of the planning committee and key project partners include the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Venessa Sims, Georgia Foundation for Agriculture’s Lily Baucom, Scheyett, Dunn, and Professor Diane Bales from the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

For more information about Georgia Farm Bureau, visit For agenda and speaker information, visit

Jay Stone is a news reporter with Georgia Farm Bureau.