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APAS president urges farmers to ‘talk to people’ during stressful, late harvest

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WATCH ABOVE: Saskatchewan farmers are under pressure to finish up, which can impact mental health.

Todd Lewis is one of the Saskatchewan producers dealing with the frustration and stress of a late 2019 harvest.

His farm roughly 35 kilometres south of Regina saw thunderstorms on Wednesday, forcing harvest to come to a halt. Rain kept him out of the field on Thursday and the forecast doesn’t look promising for the following few days.

READ MORE: Farmers make headway on Saskatchewan harvest, but rain slowing progress

Saskatchewan Agriculture’s crop report said 39 per cent of this year’s crop is in the bin, which is far behind the five-year average of 62 per cent.

“There’s such a large area that hasn’t been combined,” said Lewis, who is also the president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS).

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With each passing day, producers’ stress levels increase, he said.

He’s encouraging family members, friends and neighbours to recognize the signs of deteriorating mental health. Farmers can feel isolated due to geography, but also because of long hours in a solitary environment like the inside of a combine, he said.

“Some people get into the situation where they feel entrapped and it’s not going to get any better,” Lewis said.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan farmers rush to wrap up harvest before cold weather sets in

It’s been a particularly challenging year for farmers after one of the driest springs on record hurt crop maturation. Now the opposite problem — wet weather — is delaying harvest.

“Talk to people. There’s lots of help out there,” the APAS president said.

Calls to Saskatchewan Farm Stress Line spiked in the spring. While call numbers aren’t available for the current fiscal quarter, weather is expected to weigh on the mental health of the average farmer.

“He’s the CEO of a big corporation — his own farm — so he’s having to make a lot of difficult decisions,” said John McFadyen, executive director of Mobile Crisis Services, which operates the stress line.

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Those difficult decisions, McFadyen said, include determining when to harvest crops or how to deal with extra expenses like grain drying.

READ MORE: Spring 2019 driest in Saskatoon and Moose Jaw recorded history

During the 2018-19 fiscal year, the Farm Stress Line received just over 750 calls — more than twice the number of calls from the year before.

The Farm Stress Line operates 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The confidential, toll-free line is 1-800-667-4442.