Sowing the Seeds of Hope
- Need: Agriculture workers and their families have high rates of psychological distress and suicide, but limited access to mental health services.
- Intervention: The "Sowing the Seeds of Hope" (SSoH) program was created to provide affordable and culturally appropriate mental health services to individuals working in agriculture and their families in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
- Results: The regional program ran from 1999-2011 and successfully established a variety of interventions to help individuals in rural communities' access behavioral health services.
Farm workers and their families face severe stress, rural isolation, and limited access to mental health professionals. As a result, this population is high-risk for behavioral health and substance abuse problems. In 1999, 7 states came together to create the Sowing Seeds of Hope (SSOH) program.
Each state operated a website along with a 24/7 crisis hotline providing advice to farmers and connecting them with a wide network of resources specific to their problem. The program's original funding was provided by a Federal Office of Rural Health Policy grant.
The nonprofit AgriWellness, Inc. took over administrative functions in 2001 and helped secure funding for 10 more years. Ultimately the program could not develop a revenue-creating, sustainable business plan.
Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas each created a phone helpline partnered with a website for farmers and their families in need of mental health services. A mandatory background for helpline responders was a background in agriculture plus mental health training. This created culturally appropriate assistance. Additionally, services were provided in English and Spanish. Responders provided confidential advice for callers, as well as resources on topics such as:
- Legal issues
- Financial issues
- Disaster assistance
- How to obtain further mental health services
The SSoH program also provided:
- Educational training for health professionals on how to provide culturally appropriate care to agricultural workers
- Statewide coalitions for mental health advocacy
- Mobilization of state resources to assist farmers in other areas of life
- Public awareness and marketing campaigns addressing mental health issues
- Vouchers for farmers and their families to access mental health services they would otherwise not have been able to afford
- Retreats for farm families and assistance in paying for help to work on the farm while they were away
- Support groups for farmers and families
During the 12 years the SSoH program was in place, it accomplished:
- Assistance and response for over 75,000 calls made to the program's crisis hotlines
- The education of over 13,000 people on agricultural mental health
- 15,000 farm families received vouchers for mental health services
- Over 4,400 professionals were trained to deliver mental health services to persons working in agriculture
- 1,600 farm men, women, and families attended SSoH retreats and support groups
- Over 420 outreach events and over 40 professional training programs
- The program reached over 3 million people throughout the 7-state region with public awareness and marketing campaigns
SSoH was named a best practice model by Rural Healthy People 2010, and was also featured as a promising practice in the Department of Health and Human Service's 2011 publication Rural Behavioral Health Programs and Promising Practices.
For more information about the program:
The largest barrier faced by this program was securing adequate funding and sustainability. Over the years, multiple sources of funding were used, including public and private grants.
This program was very successful in gaining the trust of the farming community. In part, this was accomplished by employing outreach workers familiar with agricultural life, culture and barriers faced by farm workers and their families.
SSoH partnered with AgriWellness to provide many administrative expert functions such as grant writing, data collection, evaluation, and most importantly, agricultural mental health issues.
Programs wishing to replicate the success of the SSoH program should prioritize gaining the trust of their target population, and partner with an organization that can effectively and efficiently provide the essential, day-to-day functions associated with comprehensive projects such as SSoH.
Contact InformationMike Rosmann, Ph.D. AgriWellness
Farmers and farmworkers
Stress and stress disorders
Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin
July 18, 2008
Date updated or reviewed
June 15, 2017
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.