Meeting in Fargo discusses ways to address stress farmers are feeling

Soybeans sit in a soggy field Monday, Oct. 21, north of West Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America faith leaders from across Minnesota and North Dakota met with agricultural organizations and agencies on Tuesday, Oct. 22, in Fargo to talk about the emotional and financial challenges facing farmers.

About 25 people attended the meeting held at Lutheran Social Services to address the stress that farmers are under and to discuss what kinds of assistance is available to them, said Curt Stofferahn, UND professor emeritus who helped organize the meeting.

Stofferahn said he recalled the stress that farmers, including himself, went through in the 1980s, and wanted to be proactive about talking to agencies and organizations who work with farmers about what worked and didn’t work back then.

Stofferahn told Bishop Terry Brandt, of the Eastern North Dakota Synod Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, about his concerns and he convened the meeting, Stofferahn said. Lutheran bishops from North Dakota, southeastern and southwestern Minnesota and representatives of farm agencies and organizations attended the Tuesday meeting,

Those who attended discussed: “How do we provide financial and spiritual help for people who are experiencing financial and mental stress?” Many farmers belong to small, rural congregations, which need to be prepared to assist them, according to Stofferahn.


Farmers are experiencing multiple kinds of stress, including financial, marital and emotional, Stofferahn said. Not only are farmers being challenged by low crop prices, but also wet weather that’s resulted in hundreds of thousands of unharvested acres in North Dakota and Minnesota.

“I have friends and relatives that are going through this on a daily basis, and I know what they’re experiencing,” he said.

During the meeting, people who work with farmers indicated the number of calls with concerns about emotional, spiritual and financial stress have increased, Stofferahn said.

“We had people there who are dealing with farmers going through these situations,” he said.

Meanwhile, people at the meeting also reported that 10,000 pocket cards listing phone numbers for information about how farmers can get help for various kinds of stress have been given out, and plans are to print another 10,000, Stofferahn said.

Stofferahn requested that the representatives of agencies and organizations who attended the meeting email a link to their resources so he can compile a list of what help is available to farmers.


The people who attended the meeting also talked about the importance of letting others know that farmers aren’t the only ones who will be stressed by the situation.

“We need to make it known to the larger community, this is a problem that not only is affecting farmers, but also communities in the state,” Stofferahn said. “This is going to reverberate through the whole economy and be felt in multiple ways."

Some ideas discussed at the meeting were to hold a day of prayer, a couple’s workshop and farm shop meetings. Brandt also plans to reach out to other faith community leaders and ask for their input on addressing the issue, Stofferahn said.

“The consensus was that this is bigger than the ELCA,” he said.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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