The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded the Guam Department of Agriculture (DOAG) $500,000 for distribution to local farmers.
The grant, awarded through USDA's Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network program, will be used to establish a network of support for farmers, ranchers, and agriculture workers in times of stress and offer a conduit to improving behavioral health awareness, literacy, and outcomes for agricultural producers, workers, and their families.
“The awarding of this grant follows findings from the 2018 Guam Agricultural Census data, which revealed that Guam’s farmers are not only older than the national average, but most are socially disadvantaged and many qualified as limited resource farmers. These factors make them especially vulnerable to stress and mental health issues,” Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said.
“We value our agriculture community and need for them to be healthy, so they can, in turn, help us be healthy with the fruits, vegetables, meat, and eggs of their labor,” said DOAG Director Chelsa Muna-Brecht. “With support from Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, the Department of Agriculture will initiate and expand stress assistance programs by providing agriculture behavioral health counseling to farmers.”
The scope of work includes site visits to farmers identified in the DOAG database. GBHWC will train and certify agricultural advocates with mental health training to identify those in need of support, provide initial support, and connect the community to resources. Training for agricultural advocates will provide a three-year certification. Online and in-person education resources will be also be created for the island’s agriculture community.
“We are growing the resources available to our farmers--the men and women and their families who work every day to provide our island food security and fresh, nutritious produce,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio. “With this grant, we do more than support our farmers, but we are also building stronger inter-agency partnerships, like that between the Department of Agriculture and the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center.”