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Grassroots Wisdom Book

Farmer Angel Network

Often, thoughts of rural life bring to mind idyllic images of green and gold fields, red barns, and tranquility, of salt-of-the earth, strong, independent farmers and wholesomeness. The reality of modern farm life is often more turbulent, with worries over losing small-scale family farms, including both home and livelihood, common and depression and self-isolation, in an already solitary life, increasingly more common. 

An April 19, 2023 New York Times article by Elizabeth Williamson highlights the suicide of Wisconsin farmer Leon Statz as an example of the “elevated risk of suicide” experienced by America’s farmers.  Responding to the article, an editor on the Farmer Angel Network website writes, “Grief needs a witness, so it is by facing the pain of grief with others that we begin to heal.” This coming together “with others . . . to heal” after Leon Statz’s suicide galvanized the community to take action and form the Farmer Angel Network. 

The Farmer Angel Network, based in Sauk County, Wisconsin, seeks to alleviate the often-invisible suffering farmers and rural Americans experience. The organization’s homepage includes a well-highlighted green banner with contact numbers for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and the 24/7 Wisconsin Farmer Wellness Helpline, a Request for Assistance form, and examples of “Ways We Help,” emphasizing the focus on help. One significant focus of the group is to destigmatize depression and suicidal ideology in the farming community and to encourage help-seeking behavior, instead. They did this, initially, as explained on the website, by creating “a safe space to come together and talk about farm stress and suicide over the lunch hour.” They continue to create community around farm stress and suicidal thoughts by bringing “in speakers and resources to listen to and utilize during these difficult times.” Importantly, “[Staltz’s] family and other community members decided to share their stories to help others learn about farm stress and mental health concerns in rural communities,” and this is how “Farmer Angel Network (FAN) was formed.” What a great way to honor Leon Staltz while working to prevent another such tragedy!

How are the farmers in your area doing? Are you wondering how to help those who are struggling? Take heart in the model offered by this organization and think about how their approach may serve as a model for your region. Visit the Farmer Angel Network to see how they serve the Wisconsin farming community.



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