Southwest Virginia agricultural industry grapples with stress caused by inflation, COVID

What the state is doing to help famers cope

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – The agricultural industry is critical to Southwest Virginia, and there is more stress on farmers now than ever before.

Thane Sink works hard daily on this farm.

“Then you start your routine day of making sure everything is bedded, taken care of, switching pastures,” Sink said.

Sink manages about 75 acres of land. In addition, he also handles a herd of cows, by himself.

“I would say it’s a good 12 hours of labor, there are days where it gets overwhelming,” said Sink.

Kasey Kohl, CEO of Homestead Creamery, gets milk from farmers like Sink.

“One of the largest stressors for farmers here in Virginia is labor,” Kohl said.

Due to the pandemic, finding reliable labor on the farm is proving to be difficult. Other factors farmers deal with are the increased prices of gas, fertilizer and hay, which comes from Ukraine.

It’s having an impact on the farmer’s bottom line. In fact, according to Kohl, inflation is already having an impact on your pocketbook.

“Everyone is noticing ... how much the groceries are going up,” Kohl said.

The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked together to create the Farmer Stress Task Force.

The purpose of the task force is to raise awareness of the mental health issues farmers cope with.

“What are some of the causes of farmer stress and what we can do to eliminate or mitigate it,” Joe Guthrie, the commissioner with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said.

In addition, the organizations created community service boards to help direct farmers to proper health services.

Plus, VDACS is looking to get a hotline for farmers.

About the Author:

Duke Carter returned to 10 News in January 2022.