From Kentucky Department of Agriculture
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 20, 2023) – Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Ryan Quarles honored Kentucky’s farmers and proclaimed Sept.17-23 as Farm Safety and Health Week in Kentucky at a Farmer’s Appreciation and Awards Day on the Capitol Lawn Wednesday.
“The greatest appreciation we can give our farmers is making sure they are safe on the job. Farmers face a number of risks in the course of their work, from machinery accidents, chemical exposure, unruly livestock, grain bin entrapment, severe weather, and many others,” Commissioner Quarles said. “In Kentucky, we have made great strides to mitigate these risks to make farming safer than ever before, but accidents still happen. ‘No One Can Take Your Place,’ isn’t just the theme for this year’s farm safety and health week, it is the cost we pay when even one person is lost. Whether you are on the farm, on the road, or in the home, please take that extra step to protect yourself and those around you.”
The inaugural Raising Hope Farmer Appreciation and Awards Day honored farmers and the job they do, while also recognizing the risks they face in their day-to-day duties.
The Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center reported that 17 Kentuckians engaged in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting died on the job in 2022. Of those fatalities, nine involved agricultural machinery, making it the second leading cause of occupational fatalities in Kentucky.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s (KDA) Farm Safety and Health program, which started 25 years ago this month, travels the state and the nation training farmers and rescuers in safety precautions to prevent such tragedies on the farm. The farm and home safety averages more than 100 events annually. Today, states from across the nation continue to contact KDA seeking help on starting one of their own.
But it’s not just physical risks farmers face. They can also face mental and physical health issues due to the nature of their jobs. The Raising Hope Initiative focuses strategies on the mental and physical health of agricultural producers.
The grant-funded initiative is supported by appropriations from the Kentucky General Assembly. It is a partnership with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the University of Kentucky Southeast Center for Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention, Western Kentucky University, Pennyroyal Center, the Kentucky Department for Public Health, the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center, and the Kentucky Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental, and Intellectual Disabilities.
State Rep. Brandon Reed was one of the main legislators that led that campaign through the General Assembly to gain acceptance from the state for Raising Hope.
“Raising Hope recognizes that the mental well-being of farmers is just as vital as their physical health,” Rep. Reed said. “It encourages open conversations about stress, anxiety, and depression, providing a safe space for farmers to seek help without fear of judgment. Raising Hope exists to remind our farmers that they are not alone in their struggles and that there is help available. I was honored to work with Commissioner Quarles to include funding for Raising Hope in 2020, and equally pleased at the support my colleagues in the House and Senate have given the program.”
Rep. Reed also presented Commissioner Quarles with a Citation of Appreciation for his service on behalf of farmers and farm families across the commonwealth for his work toward the Raising Hope initiative. Several others were recognized for their work for the inaugural Capital Farm Safety, Rural Health, and Raising Hope Day hosted on Wednesday.
Several awards were also presented during the event. Those include:
Dr. Cheryl Witt, Dr. Susan Jones, and Dr. Joan Mazur were presented honorary commissioner awards from Commissioner Quarles. The three healthcare professionals saw the need for a farmer mental health and stress program and contacted the KDA for assistance in getting the program started. Raising Hope blossomed out of that conversation.
Farmers of the Year
Three Kentucky farmers were honored for the work they have done to promote safety, and mental health benefits to their communities.
Friends of Raising Hope
Dr. Cheryl Witt presented Dr. Debbie Reed with the first Friends of Raising Hope award. She took her rural health classes to rural areas where farmers and farm families were located, raising hope for those in often forgotten parts of the state.