Last September, heavy rains over two days in southern Minnesota washed out roads, flooded farm fields, strained sewer systems, destroyed 80 homes and affected hundreds of other structures. With 11 inches of water recorded in the worst-hit areas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared 29 counties disaster areas. These counties include Blue Earth, Brown, Carver, Cottonwood, Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Jackson, Lincoln, Le Sueur, Lyon, Martin, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Olmsted, Pipestone, Redwood, Rice, Rock, Sibley, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Watonwan, Winona, Yellow Medicine.
While stories from last fall’s floodwaters are no longer in the news, recovery is far from over. Worse, heavy rainfall took an even greater toll on farmers whose livelihoods were also affected by standing water that delayed the harvest and reduced crop yields or wiped them out altogether.
To help farm families, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture are working together to help them deal with losses and recover emotionally through Farm C.O.R.E. (case management, outreach, referral and education).
“Natural disasters like these can push people to the breaking point and even more so for farm families who are inclined to focus on restoring farm operations while letting their own emotional recovery take a back seat,” explained Tammy Weisenberger, operations director for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.
Through this new effort, professionals from Lutheran Social Service will work with farm families to assess their unique needs, create individualized action plans and connect them to other community services they may need. Services are confidential and trained counselors can meet families in their homes, through office visits or by phone.
Besides working with families to develop a plan, farm families can also benefit from mental health counseling, financial counseling, in-home family counseling, caregiver support and specialized therapy for children traumatized by the flood disaster.
“Common feelings after a natural disaster are stress, anxiety, depression and loss of hope,” Weisenberger said. “We want farmers and their families to know that we’re here to help.”
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is joining hands with Lutheran Social Service to partner with an organization that has a statewide reach in its services.
“Oftentimes farmers don’t seek help when they need it,” said Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson. “We’re really pleased to team up with Lutheran Social Service to provide additional resources to these farmers in the disaster area.”
Right now, Lutheran Social Service is meeting with local professionals in rural communities to create more awareness about these new services to farm families. The goal is also to encourage them to watch for warning signs and refer families who they think could benefit from these services.
For immediate help, farm families in these counties can call Lutheran Social Service directly at 507.625.7660 or the Minnesota Farmer Assistance Network at 1.877.898.6326.