Dr. Val FarmerDr.Val
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships


            I couldn’t have hoped for a better successor. Dr. Mike Rosmann and I have been running in a parallel universes, each of us doing our part to help a clientele we feel deeply about. His academic bonafides are much stronger than mine and his work is known widely in professional psychology circles. There is no one in this field I respect more.

            Mike has been a leader in rural mental health...err...(old habits die hard) behavioral health for almost as long as I have. He has been a psychologist, a farmer, a lecturer, a conference organizer and leader, an influential voice in rural causes, a compassionate counselor, a loving husband and father, and most importantly, a man with a strong spiritual and moral frame of reference.

            Mike and I should have hooked up sooner but we were both busy taking care of what was on our plate in front of us. Now that we have conversed extensively, it is amazing how much alike we are and how similar our careers have been.

             In the past few years he has sought to change from writing for professional audiences to writing for the general public. He has authored a book, “Excellent Joy”, a book of essays and vignettes focusing on psychology and connection to land, nature, and people.

            He is fresh and animated and looking forward to the challenge of a weekly column. He cares about my audience - his natural audience. I am a “almost” spent force when it comes to column writing. I’ve done it, he is on the cusp. Sit back, read him, and soon you’ll agree, a marvelous transition has occurred.


            Dr. Val Farmer recently announced his retirement after 28 years of authoring this column.  He also provided professional psychological services for even more years.

            Dr. Val dedicated himself steadfastly to offering useful insights and advice about rural issues and mental health. He responded to countless telephone and email inquiries, sometimes by phone or email and sometimes in person. He frequently gave lectures and consultations around the country.  It is an honor for me to have been asked to take over Dr. Farmer’s weekly column.

            Dr. Farmer deserves appreciation for helping to remove the negative stigma about mental health.  He made mental health understandable and practical.  He made it okay for readers, families and all of us to look at mental health concerns as matters that can be talked about.

            Having problems of a personal nature or with others is not necessarily a weakness—avoiding them is. Ignoring them hampers our happiness and productivity. Dr. Farmer advised us how to handle problems in our daily lives and when to take the more difficult issues to others whom we can trust, such as counselors, physicians, pastors and other wise confidants.

            When I take over the column in early April, you will see that I generally use the term “behavioral health” instead of “mental health.” My website, which is currently being set up, is: www.agbehavioralhealth.com. There are several reasons why I prefer behavioral health.

            Behavioral health is more understandable. Generally, mental health is viewed as somewhat mysterious and often beyond our control. Behavioral is a less loaded term than mental. Mental health treatments include psychiatric medications and professional counseling.  We must seek these services from others.

            On the other hand, behavioral health implies knowledge of behavior. The more we learn about behaviors, the better we can manage ourselves. For example, we can often control anxiety and depression by learning how to produce the beneficial body chemicals, serotonin, norepinepherine and oxytocin, on our own.

            Behavioral healthcare is focused on wellness. Behavioral healthcare includes all forms of assistance that help us to behave in a healthier fashion. Behavioral healthcare is holistic—focused on the mind, body and spiritual parts of us. Professional behavioral healthcare services include all types of services that advance our behavioral welfare, such as pastoral counseling, meditation, recreation, and nutrition, as well as traditional psychiatric and psychological services and substance abuse treatments.

            Adopted by most federal agencies. The term behavioral health has been adopted by most U.S. federal agencies and is the preferred term of most national healthcare organizations.  The shift from mental health to behavioral health began slowly about twenty years ago and was formally accomplished during the first decade of this century.

            Goals of this column. Most of the topics I want to deal with in this column emerged from 35 years’ working with farm and rural people. I am a licensed clinical psychologist and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Iowa where I teach agricultural behavioral health to medical and behavioral healthcare professionals. Although I no longer actively operate our family farm, I was a grain producer and purebred Simmental cattle breeder for a quarter century.

            Currently I am writing a text book called “Agricultural Behavioral Health.” I will use information from the columns in the book and vice versa. I value your suggestions of topics to explore, so please send me your thoughts and questions. I learn from you and our shared observations. Send your suggestions to my email address: info@agriwellness.org.

            Dr. Farmer and I have known each other for many years. I have deep respect for him as a person and for his work. He has set the bar high!  I hope, with your feedback and suggestions, and from periodic consultations with Val, to reach that bar. Mike Rosmann, Ph.D.