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Farmers have silently struggled with their mental health for years. Are they ready to talk?

©Riley Bunch/GPB News: North Georgia farmer Drew Echols picks peaches in his field on July 11, 2022, at Jaemor Farms in Alto, Ga. Echols is from a line of farmers who, until recently, generally remained silent about mental health amid the stressors of farming. But experts are seeking to change that.
©Riley Bunch/GPB News: North Georgia farmer Drew Echols picks peaches in his field on July 11, 2022, at Jaemor Farms in Alto, Ga. Echols is from a line of farmers who, until recently, generally remained silent about mental health amid the stressors of farming. But experts are seeking to change that.

Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB), August 9, 2022, by Riley Bunch: Drew Echols doesn’t remember ever talking with his father about mental health. Or his grandfather. In fact, he doesn’t remember the last time he talked about his mental health at all.

“We talked about work a whole lot more than we should, and talked about our physical or mental well-being, probably a whole lot less than we should,” he said.

Echols is the general manager of Jaemor Farms in Alto, Ga., which has been in his family since 1912. Sitting on the side of the Old Cornelia Highway, the farm’s market location at its peak serves about 13,000 visitors a day — shoppers filling their carts with fresh produce and baked goods.

But while customers peruse items in the market aisle, Echols’ phone rings nonstop. There’s a call from a broker about a shipment. A staff member with questions. His wife wonders who’s picking up their son, who has Down syndrome.

Echols lives under a pressure that has been passed down for generations — the high-stress job of running a farm.

“I think probably one of the biggest stressors is that you just ultimately want to be successful because it has been in the family for five generations,” he said. “Do I want to be the one that screws it up?”

Read more from Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) here.

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