Times are tough. Drought and resulting water shortages leave farmers and ranchers looking at unplanted fields, dried-out pastures and the prospect of reduced production and income. And it is only March, meaning there's a long way to go to get through the summer months. Stress and worry may build.
California Farm Bureau Federation Rural Health and Safety Committee Chair Stacy Gore, a farmer from Butte County, suggests that farmers, ranchers, family members and friends recognize and alleviate stress associated with suffering through this prolonged disaster.
"This drought is a statewide problem. It is going to potentially affect us all," he said. "It's going to be hard and stressful."
For Gore, this year's drought means less income for his family and the possibility that he may not hire as many seasonal employees as he has in the past.
"The stress for me is, I'm not going to pull in as many total dollars for my family. If I run the rest of my life pretty efficiently, I think I'll be OK, but I don't know about those seasonal guys that I am unable to hire this year," Gore said. "We've got to watch out for our friends and neighbors. If they are feeling down, give them a word of encouragement."
Farmers and ranchers must pay attention to stress and find ways to alleviate it, he said.
"We in agriculture talk about taking care of our families, our communities, our schools and other responsibilities, but don't ignore yourself," Gore said. "You've got to start with you first. You've got to take care of your health."
Water is the key to success in agriculture, so having little to no access to such an important yet uncertain resource is troubling.
"Even for people who have said, 'I have a pump and a well,' we're finding out that some haven't run them in such a long time, they are worried that the pumps are not going to work properly or they worry constantly about the potential for breakdowns," said Barry Bedwell, president of the Fresno-based California Grape and Tree Fruit League.
Marc Schenker, University of California, Davis, professor of public health, science and medicine and Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety director, said communication is an important tool.
"Facilitating that (communication) is quite valuable, so people don't feel isolated. It always helps just in a general sense with stress and isolation," Schenker said. "We know that isolation exacerbates, if not causes, the stress and depression that happen from things like this, and countering that is very important."