Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Val Farmer describes his career as a writer

September 24, 1993

When I have a chance to meet people who have been reading my column, they often ask about my writing. Here are some things, people have been curious about.

When did you start writing?

I started writing a monthly magazine column in 1982 for a publication then known as “Farm Wife News.” I wrote 48 columns from 1982 through 1987.

The first 20 columns were later published in a book, “Making the Good Life Better: Dr. Vai Farmer’s Guide to Rural Living.” The book is currently out of print.

What about your newspaper column?

Over nine years ago in January 1984 I started writing a weekly newspaper column. It’s been a rewarding, definitely a regular part of my life.

At first, almost all my columns were related to various aspects of rural living and rural mental health. Later, I consciously added general interest themes.

About the time I started the column, the farm crisis mushroomed. I have well over 50 columns that describe the personal and family impact of the farm crisis and advice on how to cope.

My column has since evolved into a weekly “generic” column and a twice-a-month “rural” column for subscribing newspapers. This gives the editor a choice in the type of column that fits the reader’s needs.

How do you find time to write?

I wonder that myself. Actually, the time it takes to write a column has shortened up considerably since I first began. The actual writing and rewriting time is usually less than four hours. Time for research, reading, interviews —-and as my wife terms it, agonizing — is added on and varies with each column.

I maintain a clinical practice in psychology and have occasional speaking engagements in addition to my writing. I have to juggle many deadlines and demands. Right now, I am in a fairly comfortable but routinely stressful schedule.

Don’t you ever run out of ideas?

I read widely, think about my clinical work, attend lectures and workshops and listen to people talk about their concerns and ideas. I receive letters from readers with valuable insights or who have questions about their own lives.

I attend conventions of American Psychological Association and the Rural Sociology Society. I collect convention papers and do telephone interviews with researchers whom I feel have important ideas the public could use. Professionals appreciate the research-based quality I bring to my column.

I also have some areas of emphasis I bring to the column from my own values, concerns, perspectives and expertise. The work I do in marriage and family counseling, farm family relationships and rural coping reflect these areas.

I am also interested in matters of cultural change and the dynamics of society as they impact our lives. Occasionally, I write about events in my family that I feel readers might enjoy.

The selection of columns on a week to week basis reflects my overall bias about what I feel is important for the public. I want my column to be helpful and offer ideas to help people live better or happier lives.

Readers have commented on the concise, “down-to-earth” usefulness of my column. The feedback and appreciation I get from readers are the rewards for the work I do.

Do you have a book of collected columns available?

Things are starting to happen. I currently have a booklet available, “Farming: Nurturing the Soil and Soul.” This booklet presents an overview of rural life and how to meet its basic challenges. I've also written “After Divorce, Single Parenting and Stepparenting.” 

The following booklets are waiting for publication:

?“On the Brink of Divorce?”

?“Grieving: The Painful Part of Love”

?“Values to Live By”

?“Practical Advice About Affairs”

?“Straight Talk to Teens”

?“Parenting: Meeting the Challenge”

I hope that some or most of these will.be out in the next few months. I have projected at least 20 other booklets based on my past columns. I have so many on marriage and relationships that it seems like a book than a booklet.

Is it worth it?

I love the challenge, the responsibility and the opportunity I have. I couldn’t ask for anything better.