FarmOps and positive mental health

WATERTOWN, NY – We have all felt it! The singular way a walk in the woods leaves us renewed, a vase of flowers brightens the moment, or the peace we feel when sharing a beautiful sunrise with only a cup of coffee. Some of us actively seek out these experiences with nature. We go for hikes, camp out, grow a garden, vacation by the beach. Others may happily catch a breath of nature as we can, appreciating this bonus as we get it. Innately, we know the benefits of interacting in the natural environment goes deep and can be a source of joy, calm, grounding, and thankfulness.

If anecdotal evidence isn’t enough, don’t fret, there is plenty of research to demonstrate a clear benefit to our mental health when we spend time in the natural world. Maybe it comes from the profit gained from physical activity, the gift of appreciation when sharing natures beauty or being grounded in the immutable lessons of life learned from the world of nature. This benefit to mental health is something we all need more of and is a compelling reason to spend time outside, working and playing in the natural world.

There are therapy animals, therapy horticulture and therapy outdoor experiences. Many farmers will attest there is therapy in farming. Farming combines many of the benefits derived from living closely with the natural world, and while it can have its own stressors, can also be a career and lifestyle chosen for just these reasons.

Farm OPS is a Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County program that connects veterans and military service members with career opportunities in agriculture. Farm OPS has classes, workshops, offers on farm tours and matches veterans and service members with farmers to learn what a career in agriculture might look like. Many of the farmer-mentors are veterans themselves who chose this lifestyle because they recognized it was good for the soul.

September is Suicide Prevention Month. Now is a good time to reap the mental health benefits that nature so freely offers. Get outside, hike, play in a garden, walk a dog. If you are a veteran or service member discover the many career options available in agriculture.