Hawaiʻi farmers 45 years old or younger are going into 2023 facing unprecedented mental stress. A recent study found that 48% have experienced depression, and 14% struggled with suicidal thoughts. This is almost two times higher than Hawaiʻi’s general population, and 17% higher than CDC’s 2021 report on public health workers.
The State of Hawaiʻi has targeted to double local food production by 2030 (Hawaiʻi 2050 Sustainability Plan). This ambitious goal is likely to face challenges without productive resources, and better access to resources, for our farmers and ranchers, especially the young generation (average age of farmers in Hawaiʻi is 60 years old – the “graying” of ag). Among the needed resources are mental health support and coping tools. We are faced with two primary challenges: 1) recruiting young folks into the ag sector; they see farming as highly laborious, risky, and without a quick return of investment, including their time- it is simply not lucrative; and 2) for those who want the lifestyle, the vast uncertainties and challenges that inherently come with the ag profession make it additionally challenging to stay committed.
Building a robust community to discuss the reality of these challenges, and how to navigate through potential mental health issues as a result, can only help. And that is our goal with the Seeds of Wellbeing Project.