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For the past week I’ve been at two amazing conferences—The Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference and the Georgia Dairy Conference. At both events I met dynamic, industrious, creative producers and people from industry.

What was the most impactful for me was the people who, once they found out that Rural Georgia, Growing Stronger is an initiative to address farmer and farm family stress, enthusiastically supported the work. I heard “We really need this!” dozens, maybe hundreds, of times. Some attendees told me about their own struggles with stress, or how worried they were about a spouse carrying huge stress, or even about a loved one they had tragically lost to stress-related health issues or suicide.

The Rural Georgia, Growing Stronger table and materials, openly discussing stress and emotional challenges, made it ok for people at these conferences to talk about it too…and lots of people really wanted to talk.

What I learned this week is that all we have to do is crack the door open, and people will step into this conversation and talk about stress…and talking about stress helps people feel more connected and relieved and hopeful.

So, I’m going to try to do two things in the coming weeks. First, I’m going to try to open the door for others to talk about their stress and how they are feeling. It just takes a simple “How are you doing, really?” 

Second, when someone I trust opens the door and asks how I’m doing, I’ll try to tell them the truth. Not the superficial “Oh, I’m fine” but an honest statement. Maybe it’s a good day–I can tell them something good that happened recently.  Maybe it’s a not-good, hard day–I can say that too. It’s ok to vent for a minute and take comfort in the respectful sympathy of a friend.

I’d invite you to join me in this. Open the door for others and step through doors that people who care are opening for you. Have a genuine conversation about how you’re feeling and listen when others tell you how they are doing. Everyone will feel a little less stress, a little more hope, and be better able to thrive on the farm.

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