Posted in Crops, Irrigation, Livestock

FSA County Committee Nomination Deadline

It is important for one to stand for what they believe in and takes an active role in one’s community. Effective leadership is crucial to any community or organization.  An effective leader understands the issues at-hand, is knowledgeable in his/her area, knows the proper ways to motivate others, embraces change, can work in a variety of settings and with a variety of personalities, and involves the group or followers in important decision-making. That being said, remember that a leader is not only a political figure or someone that is well known, but a leader can be a farmer, local businessmen/women, or anyone in a community or organization.  For those individuals desiring to take on leadership roles, consider serving on the FSA County Committee. Details for how to step into this role follow.

houses in farm against cloudy sky
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) encourages all farmers, ranchers, and FSA program participants to take part in the County Committee election nomination process.

FSA’s county committees are a critical component of the day-to-day operations of FSA and allow grassroots input and local administration of federal farm programs.

Committees are comprised of locally elected agricultural producers responsible for the fair and equitable administration of FSA farm programs in their counties. Committee members are accountable to the Secretary of Agriculture. If elected, members become part of a local decision making and farm program delivery process.

A county committee is composed of three elected members from local administrative areas (LAA). Each member serves a three-year term. One-third of the seats on these committees are open for election each year.

County committees may have an appointed advisor to further represent the local interests of underserved farmers and ranchers. Underserved producers are beginning, women and other minority farmers and ranchers and landowners and/or operators who have limited resources.

All nomination forms for the 2019 election must be postmarked or received in the local USDA service center by Aug. 1, 2019. For more information on FSA county committee elections and appointments, refer to the FSA fact sheet: Eligibility to Vote and Hold Office as a COC Member available online at: fsa.usda.gov/elections.

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Posted in Irrigation, Programming, Youth

Irrigation Lessons for Youth

With my agricultural education degree, I enjoy creating lessons and activities for youth and often able to utilize that background by creating lessons for others. With Nebraska ExtensionScreen Shot 2019-06-07 at 2.36.33 PM.png as a leader in irrigation management and development of the Nebraska Agricultural Water Management Network, it is only fitting for Nebraska Extension to provide youth education related to irrigation.

With that in mind, a series of lessons have been created to accompany the recently developed Agricultural Water Management Guide. This online magazine-type resource introduces readers to irrigation and its use and benefits to Nebraska crop production. This guide serves as a resource for anyone wanting to learn more about irrigation management. It has embedded videos and links for further information, making it interactive. Teachers or informal educators can utilize the guide as an informative reference for themselves or encourage youth to read it themselves.

To compliment the Agricultural Water Management Guide, six lesson plans with activities have been created. Each lesson has learning objectives, careers associated with the topic, educational standards and hands-on activities related to irrigation. A basic ag water management lesson helps youth understand basics principles of soil and water management. Other lesson plan topics include: irrigation management planning & tools used, center pivot irrigation, furrow irrigation, subsurface drip irrigation, and variable rate irrigation. Extension has also developed YouTube videos to compliment these lessons in the classroom.

These materials can all be found on Nebraska Extension’s CropWatch website at cropwatch.unl.edu/youth and click on the irrigation lessons tab.

 

Posted in Crops, Horticulture, Irrigation, Livestock, Programming

Ag Offers Rewards, but can be Stressful Too

Recently I presented a webinar with my colleague, Glennis McClure that reminds us of daily stress in our lives, especially for farmers and ranchers. Agriculture is a stressful occupation and while it provides numerous rewards, it does not come without challenges. Too much stress can contribute to health issues and make us more accident prone.

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The National Center for Farmer Health points out that stress is the human response to any change that is perceived as a challenge or a threat. Changes that cause worry, frustration or upheaval and seem beyond our control can cause stress. An example that hits close to home for Nebraska farmers and ranchers is the recent weather-related disasters. Attitudes, perceptions and meanings that people assign to events determine a large part of one’s stress levels.

There are many symptoms of stress that impact our body, mind and actions. For example, physical symptoms might include nausea, shortness of breath, shaky legs, headaches, and fatigue just to name a few. When under stress, some people may experience moodiness, frustration, anger, loneliness, anxiety or depression and even suicidal thoughts. Sleeping too much or too little, increased use of alcohol or drugs, withdrawal from others and exhibiting nervous behaviors are all examples of how our actions might change when stressed.

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The good news is there are many ways to reduce stress. A summary of ways to decrease stress as compiled by Susan Harris-Broomfield, Nebraska extension educator includes:

  • Exercising ½ hour a day every day or every other day
  • Getting enough sleep to meet the demands of your body
  • Accepting that stress is a part of life and not dwelling on it
  • Learning to relax which could include taking deep breaths
  • Balance work and family time
  • Connect with sources of support
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Talk with a friend or counselor
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If you recognize someone in distress, express your concern to them and ask about their situation. Do this in a non-judgmental way and actively listen to them. People in distress might turn to suicide and a majority of people who attempt suicide have given a clue or warning to someone. Don’t ignore indirect references to death or suicide. In fact it is a myth that talking about suicide with someone may give them the idea to carry it out. Asking someone about potential suicidal thoughts they may have or discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do for someone who is suicidal. If someone indicates they are thinking of suicide, do not leave them alone. Call for help and/or take them to a hospital or health care provider. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This hotline can be accessed day or night.

In keeping with the #NebraskaStrong idea, remember to be strong and seek out help as needed and assist others who may need help. In Nebraska, our Rural Response Hotline can be accessed at 1-800-464-0258. When a farmer, rancher, or rural resident calls the hotline and requests help with stress related issues, they are connected to an experienced staff person who is trained to help callers through the Counseling, Outreach and Mental Health Therapy program. Staff members are trained to work with individuals over the phone or in their home, providing confidential information and assistance.

A recording of the webinar, in addition to resources utilized for this program can be found at https://go.unl.edu/wellnessintoughtimes.  More resources, especially disaster-related resources can be accessed on the flood.unl.edu website. For more information, contact me at brandy.vandewalle@unl.edu or (402)759-3712.

Posted in Crops, Irrigation, Livestock, Programming

Nebraska LEAD Program

Eleven years ago I met twenty-nine talented individuals with a passion of agriculture through the Nebraska LEAD program. To date, I remain friends with many of them and the networking opportunities have been tremendous. The in-state seminars challenged me to think outside of the box and remain an advocate for agriculture. I could go on and on about the excellent opportunities the LEAD program has provided, but I challenge you to experience it yourself!Fruit Market pic

The Nebraska LEAD Program is dedicated to building future Nebraska leaders so that our food and fiber system is preserved and enhanced. If you would like to be a part of the leadership necessary to chart the course . . . now and in the future, and you are presently involved in production agriculture or agribusiness, there will never be a better time to make application to the Nebraska LEAD Program. Fellowship applications for Nebraska LEAD (Leadership Education/Action Development) Group 38 are now available for men and women involved in production agriculture or agribusiness and are due on June 15. Up to 30 motivated men and women with demonstrated leadership potential are selected annually for the Nebraska LEAD Program. Generally the program is for people between the ages of 25-55 years of age.

orange and and brown chess pieces
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In addition to monthly three-day seminars throughout Nebraska from mid-September through late March each year, Nebraska LEAD Fellows also participate in a 10-day National Study/Travel Seminar during the first year and a two week International Study/Travel Seminar during the second year.

Content essential to leadership focuses on public policy issues, natural resources, community development, interpersonal skill development, communications, education, economics, and social and cultural understanding. Soon beginning its 39th year, the program is operated by the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council, a nonprofit organization in collaboration with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and in cooperation with Nebraska colleges and universities, business and industry, and individuals throughout the state.

Applications are due no later than June 15 and are available via e-mail from the Nebraska LEAD Program.  Please contact Shana at sgerdes2@unl.edu.   You may also request an application by calling (402) 472-6810.

Nebraska LEAD Program offices are in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. If you are even thinking about applying, contact me and I’d be more than happy to share my experiences with you and visit with you about this life-changing opportunity!

Posted in Crops, Horticulture, Irrigation, Livestock, Programming

Wellness in Tough Times webinar

Farmers and ranchers have many stressors in their lives.  Weather challenges and disasters like many Nebraskans have recently experienced have led to uncertainty in their crop and livestock operations. Machinery breakdowns, debt loads, volatile markets, sleep deprivation, changing regulations, and the stress of holding onto a multi-generational farm/ranch all play a part of the stress and mental health of a farmer or rancher. Farmers and ranchers know the importance of planning and talking about their financial health to bankers, financial planners, spouses, etc. but might not realize how important it is to spend time on their mental health.

A free webinar will be offered April 23 via the web for farm and ranch families.  The webinar will take place at noon (CST) and can be accessed at go.unl.edu/farmstresswebinar.WellnessToughTime.png  Wellness in Tough Times will be presented by my colleague, Nebraska Extension Educator Glennis McClure and myself from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. (CST). This free webinar is available for farm and ranch families to participate and will provide strategies for dealing with the stress of farming or ranching in today’s difficult economic environment.

Participants will learn: How to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress; understand the role stress plays in our lives; and strategies and resources to manage stress.

For more information, contact me at brandy.vandewalle@unl.edu or (402)759-3712. Dates and locations for a separate workshop available to agribusiness professionals and service providers working with farmers and ranchers will be released soon:  Communicating with Farmers Under Stress. For more information on this workshop contact Susan Harris-Broomfield susan.harris@unl.edu

 

Posted in Crops, Irrigation, Livestock, Uncategorized

Mental Health is Just as Important as Financial Health

Picture this. Someone is showing physical signs of stress – maybe it’s a heart attack or even a broken leg.  Who might arrive to the scene first?  It probably will be an EMT or other first responder. Their role is to keep the person alive or comfortable until that person reaches the hospital where doctors and other medical professionals will treat that patient. What happens if a person is showing signs of mental distress or even suicidal signs? There are classes available called, “Mental Health First Aid” which provides people the opportunity to properly help others receive professional help he/she might need. Things as simple as listening to the person non-judgmentally and encouraging them to seek professional help might just save that person’s life. Calling the suicide hotline with the person can also help that person realize that they can get through the crisis in their life.

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Farmers and ranchers have many stressors in their life. Weather challenges and disasters like many Nebraskans have recently experienced have led to uncertainty in their crop and livestock operations. Machinery breakdowns, debt loads, volatile markets, long days with sleep deprivation, government regulations, and the stress of holding onto a multi-generational farm/ranch all play a part of the stress and mental health of a farmer or rancher. Farmers and ranchers know the importance of  planning and talking about their financial health to bankers, financial planners, spouses, etc. but might not realize how important it is to spend time on their mental health.

A North Dakota State University Extension publication reminds farmers that “just as farms need to be operated in a sustainable way that preserves resources for the long term, an individual’s life needs to be managed in a sustainable way for long-term well-being. Feeling overly tired, overwhelmed by stresses or under constant pressure is not a recipe for a sustainable lifestyle.” There are physical, mental, emotional/spiritual, personal/relational, work/professional and financial/practical strategies for coping with stress. For example, get at least 7-8 hours of restful sleep is one physical way to take care of yourself. Take 10 minutes and reflect on blessings in your life in as a mental strategy to dealing with stress. Emotional or spiritual coping strategies are to pray, do random acts of kindness and something as simple as eating a meal with a friend of loved one. A personal or relational coping strategy is to plan a small getaway with a family member or spend time playing games with family or friends. For a work strategy, talk to other farmers about their strategies or plan your next day at the end of a work day and set priorities ahead of time. Finally, financial/practical coping strategies are to schedule time to organize your records or finances monthly and create a family budget and live within your means.Assess for risk of suicide or harm. Listen non-judgmentally. Give re-assurance and information. Encourage appropriate professional help. Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

At the Mental Health First Aid workshop, an action plan to help others with potential mental health problems is referred to as “ALGEE.” The action plan is as follows:

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
  • Listen non-judgmentally.
  • Give re-assurance and information.
  • Encourage appropriate professional help.
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

If you or someone you know needs help, there are several resources. The Nebraska Family Helpline can be reached at 1-888-866-8660, the Nebraska Rural Response Hotline at 1-800-464-0258 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Disaster Resources

Nebraska Extension is pushing out information to help.  Please use or share the website https://flood.unl.edu  It’s a key resource full of science-based information

Knowing the legal rights, benefits and resources available to low-income survivors of a disaster is crucial to recovery. Legal Aid of Nebraska can help. Apply online at disaster.legalaidofnebraska.org/apply, or call the Disaster Relief Hotline at 1-844-268-5627.