Anyone who reads this blog knows that for the past 20 years I have been especially passionate about two subjects: my neighbors on the Gulf Coast and the people and work of organizing around healthy and just food systems. Since becoming a national consultant and a staff person for Farmers Market Coalition, I have continually sought ways to combine the regional and national work I am involved in with my support of local initiatives, both in food and other civic projects.
One opportunity has presented itself through a visionary neighbor of mine, Bethany Bultman. Bethany and her husband Johann are activists who founded the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic in 1998 and subsequently the New Orleans Musicians’ Assistance Foundation in 2005. Bethany is always enthusiastic about connecting people and ideas and expanding the good in New Orleans.
Recently, Bethany introduced me to their You Got This program, “a compassionate, inclusive performing arts mental health outreach program designed expressly for our creative community, including music, dance and art students, to help calm suicidal thoughts, feelings and plans by promoting optimal mental health self-care. The community at large is also encouraged to help through support and intervention.
As Bethany says so eloquently, “people who move through life with a calling often blame themselves for any failure in that calling and isolate even further.” When she strongly suggested that this program be extended to local farmers and other food community leaders, I was thrilled that she had brought this to me.
Prioritizing self-care and community intervention through engaging events and resources fits so perfectly with the work that we do in farmers markets that I was on board immediately. There is no question that the issue of wellness, both physical and mental, needs to be our top priority. The numbers for all Americans in all walks of life in terms of their wellness are frightening. Added to that, farmers and harvesters and their workers are at the top of the list of the most dangerous jobs in U.S. Farm Aid has a great many resources and papers on the issues that reflect the often harsh reality of the farming life. Since 1985, they have also had a toll-free line 1-800-FARM-AID, to provide a listening ear and resources to farmers in crisis. And at the SSAWG conference happening this week, workshops like this are being offered:
Self Care Practices for Farmers — The truth is, being a farmer means you are constantly giving your energy with little time to recharge and recenter. It’s hard to find time for yourself, which can lead to a downward spiral of burnout, depression and even death. The more responsibilities you have, the more essential it is that you take care of yourself. Learn how three farmers implement self-care in their work, how to identify your emotional needs and communication style, and walk away with a few key tools that you can implement into your daily farm routine in just 10 minutes a day. Marlena Nip, Edible Schoolyard New Orleans (LA), Felicia Bell, RD & S Farm (MS), and Mark Cain, Dripping Springs Garden
Watching the very real and lovely way that You Got This offers places for the local creative community to seek help or even for the larger community to receive training to see the signs of depression or addiction among their culture bearers, I can easily see how we can add food producers to this.
So look for the beta version of Farmers and Culinarians: You Got This to begin in New Orleans. The good news is that we already have happy and well places to engage with our producers to offer an ear, resources and support: farmers markets, and the local farm delivery hubs popping up around town. In addition, many of the chefs and store owners who truly value local artistry and who care for these producers and see them regularly are also interested in being a place for this to begin.
Within Farmers and Culinarians: You Got This, I fully expect to revive one special activity from our fair trade/handmade holiday market (Festivus) that ran from 2003-2007 next to our Crescent City Farmers Market: our “Office of Homeland Serenity” which was designed to offer some respite and care, offered even before the regional horror show that began in August 2005. After the levee breaks, the OHS was even more special and useful at Festivus. I still get comments from locals about it and how they loved the set of activities and fun we added to each day.
I’ll keep you updated and please let me know about your local initiatives that are designed to build support for your producers and to extend the health and wellness offerings at farmers markets to even more neighbors.