Sheep rancher Dan Macon of Auburn started a Facebook group, "Farmer-Rancher Drought Forum," to help farmers and ranchers cope with the drought.
"It is like a virtual coffee shop. There is a sense that, 'All of my neighbors are going through this, too, and it's hard on all of us,'" Macon said. "It can be very isolating if you are thinking you are the only one having to sell cows, sell sheep or fallow a field. When you start realizing that everybody else has to deal with the same stuff, it helps."
Macon also emphasized the importance for people to talk.
"Sharing what is going on not only helps other people realize that they are not in this alone, but it is therapeutic to talk about it," he said.
Talking to fellow farmers and ranchers, Macon added, can lead to idea sharing and problem solving.
"Part of the debilitating thing about drought is not making a decision. It really helps to see other people that are making decisions, even if they are tough ones, to know, 'That's what I need to be doing too,'" he said.
Impacts of drought or other natural disasters can strain a farming operation, but also individuals, their families and other relationships, said Robert Fetsch, professor and Extension specialist emeritus at Colorado State University, who has written about farm families affected by drought.
"Regarding the drought in California, we know from family stress research that if farmers and ranchers do nothing different than they usually do to address the drought, in three to five years about one-third will be better off, about one-third will be about the same and about one-third will be worse off than they are today," Fetsch said.
He said farmers and ranchers can improve their likelihood of being better off if they and their families do three things: manage the "pileup" of stresses and strains, use internal and external resources well, and shift negative perceptions and meanings of the drought to positive ones.
Fetsch's suggestions for coping with stress include: Make wise management decisions by choosing the best way to decide; draw strength from places of peace; make your relationship with a partner a positive strength you can count on; and listen to what others say and how they feel.
Past studies on the topic, Fetsch said, indicate farming is one of the top 12 high-stress occupations. In comparisons of rural and urban families, Fetsch indicated that rural husbands and wives reported that financial and business strains contribute to a majority of their stress, while urban families reported intra-family strains contributed to most of theirs. He also found that with unique stressors also come notable strengths in farm and ranch families.