Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Farmers: Are You In Financial Trouble?

September 21, 2005

Here is a check list to see how far you are down the path to insolvency in your farm or ranch operation. Be completely honest with yourself as you answer these questions.

Financial: I use "blue sky" numbers to describe the financial health of the operation. I hide things from my lenders.

I have stopped communicating with my lender.

I don’t read or understand or I disregard my financial statements.

I haven’t filed my income taxes on time.

I have mortgaged the homestead to secure financing.

I have taken cash from life insurance policies to meet obligations.

I have speculated on the commodity markets.

I have borrowed money from relatives to solve cash flow problems.

I have used money set aside for my children’s college education to cover farm expenses.

I have engaged in questionable or fraudulent actions with Federal Crop Insurance, Farm Service Agency or my lender.

I have deliberately kept our financial problems from my spouse and my farming partners.

As a spouse, I have avoided knowing the details of our financial position.

As a family member and a farming partner, I have trusted my family member to manage the finances without my review or audit.

I am using up my equity. I am dealing with a pattern of losses that is eroding years of hard-earned value.

I have started using credit cards to finance my farming operation.

I have dropped our health insurance because of financial pressures.

I have sold off assets in order to stay in farming.

I borrow from Peter to pay Paul to manage our debts.

I have not sought financial or legal advice to deal with mounting debt.

Avoidance. I do not open my mail.

I do not answer the phone.

I avoid talking to creditors.

I use the answering machine to screen calls.

I have withdrawn from activities in the community, at the café, school functions, church, and community events.

I try to avoid being around other farmers.

Physical and emotional health. I have experienced a loss of energy and desire to do a good job farming. I don’t get things done in a timely fashion. I have let the farmstead go.

I frequently have feelings of anxiety and depression. I am unable to shut down my worries.

I am sick a lot.

I live under chronic and severe stress that interferes with sleep.

I have lost my sense of humor.

I have had suicidal thoughts. I have specifically thought how I might carry it out.

I am filled with anger and bitterness at the way key financial people have treated me.

I don’t talk with others about my problems.

I blame myself for putting the family farm in jeopardy.

I worry about what my parents think about my getting the farm in trouble.

I compromise safety because I am in too big of a hurry.

I worry about what the neighbors would think if they knew our financial condition.

I farm because I feel I am not capable of doing anything else.

I let my pride interfere with my going for help.

Marital and extended family relationships. Our marriage is suffering because of anger, blame, arguments, angry withdrawal, preoccupation with self, lack of support and lack of affection. This is primarily due to financial and work pressures.

The farm has been the source of angry arguments between my spouse and myself.

I have been deliberately deceptive about farm finances to avoid conflict.

I have become remote and uncommunicative to avoid talking about my worries. I won’t let my spouse in on my troubles.

I am edgy and explosive when I deal with stress. I take out my frustration on my spouse.

I am preoccupied with farming and have little time for anything else.

I have stopped paying attention to my wife’s or children’s emotional and recreational needs.

As a spouse, I am angry and frustrated with my husband and at everyone else that has contributed to the financial mess we are in. I feel helpless.

Get help. If you have answered "yes" to any of the above questions, you need to get help. Deal with reality. Now is the time to stop the bleeding. Don’t fight this battle alone!

Confide in someone. Talk to your family doctor, lender, a farm financial advisor, accountant, your pastor or priest, a mental health professional, a good friend, an attorney or an extension agent and get pointed in a better direction.

For more information on farm stress, you can purchase Val Farmer’s book, "Honey, I Shrunk the Farm," by sending a check or money order for a new low price of $9.50 to: Honey, I Shrunk the Farm, The Preston Connection, PO Box 1135, Orem UT 84059.