$19K Grant Helps To Expand ‘Save A Shore Farmer’ Campaign

$19K Grant Helps To Expand ‘Save A Shore Farmer’ Campaign
A billboard used as part of the "Save A Shore Farmer" awareness campaign is pictured. Submitted Photo

BERLIN – A local suicide prevention campaign for farmers and farm families will expand this year with the help of additional grant funding.

Last fall, the Jesse Klump Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program partnered with the local Suicide Prevention Coalition – a consortium of nonprofits, counseling services, health departments, hospitals and school systems – to launch “Save a Shore Farmer” with the help of a $19,000 grant from the Rural Maryland Council.

Officials said Save a Shore Farmer’s first year focused on intensive media outreach to raise awareness of the heightened risk of suicide in farm families and to spread the message that suicide can be prevented. This included billboard placement, more than 1,000 television spots, placing printed information at 19 sites in the lower three counties where farmers may gather, and appearances at agricultural-related events.

Jesse Klump Memorial Fund President Kim Klump said a report from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) noted the high suicide risk associated with farmers, forestry workers and commercial fishermen.

“It didn’t take us long to realize how important those industries are to our communities, especially farming, and when a grant opportunity arose we were prepared to take advantage of it to launch this new campaign,” she said.

Ron Pilling, secretary and treasurer of the Jesse Klump Memorial Fund, noted that the goal of the outreach campaign in the first year was to direct farm families to the coalition’s Save a Shore Farmer website, which contains information on risk factors, warning signs and local resources.

“The day before those billboards went up we had five visits to that website,” he said. “The day after the billboards went up we had 35 visits to the website, and those numbers stayed above 20, sometimes as high as 50, throughout the entire campaign. When the public service announcements started on Comcast and Mediacom we saw the same thing happen … We know we are reaching people.”

Now in its second year, Pilling said officials with the nonprofit and the local Suicide Prevention Coalition are eager to introduce new initiatives to the campaign.

Using another $19,000 grant from the Rural Maryland Council – coupled with money from the Jesse Klump Memorial Fund – he said the campaign will expand to include Spanish language versions of materials and additional efforts to engage farmers and their families.

Officials will also present their Save a Shore Farmer campaign at both the Maryland Suicide Prevention Conference and the Maryland Rural Health Association Conference.

“These sessions will be a great opportunity to showcase the innovative and collaborative suicide prevention work from our area to partners across the state,” said Worcester County Health Planner Jackie Ward.

Pilling said the campaign has also attracted the attention of agencies in other states, including the University of Minnesota’s Rural Health Center. He said Save a Shore Farmer is developing into a model program for other areas.

“Things have just happened with this program,” he said. “It’s amazing what the reach has been. It’s vastly wider than we ever anticipated.”

Pilling noted the campaign comes at a critical time in the farming community. He said recent years have proved difficult for farmers, as they have faced poor weather, falling prices and trade wars, and other economic challenges.

“Between 2010 and 2013, the average farm family income dropped by 50%,” he said. “The percentage of the food dollar that goes to farmers, rather than distributors, grocery stores, processors and packaging plants, drops year after year.”

But Pilling noted that stresses on farmers and their families also go beyond economic matters.

“Farmers don’t think of what they do as their job,” he said. “It’s providing food. They think of it as a legacy and as a responsibility.”

Officials noted the importance of suicide prevention efforts in rural communities, where farm families are less likely to seek and receive help for mental health issues.

Those with the Klump Fund and the coalition are currently exploring ways to reach local farmers and farming organizations.

“In year two we hope to engage farm families more directly, teaching recognition of the warning signs of suicide’s threat,” Klump said. “We’re open to any suggestions about events relating to farming where we may exhibit, organizations that would invite us to speak, or any way to reach the agricultural population.”

For more information, or to learn about the risk factors and warning signs of suicide among farmers, visit www.saveashorefarmer.org.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.