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Discussion Meet and Farmer Mental Health


“It’s great to be part of this organization, you learn a lot of great things…”

This year’s Idaho Farm Bureau Convention was held at Fort Hall, and showcased members of the Young Farmers & Ranchers of Idaho like Achiever in Agriculture Award Winners Terry & Ashley Walton, and Excellence in Agriculture Winners Matt & Jessica Henderson.

-Applause -

“I have been a delegate from Bonneville county for probably the last 8-10 years,” said Bonneville County Delegate Andrew Mickelsen.

“I’m also a member of the Young Farmers and Ranchers, it’s a great group that’s given me an opportunity to meet other young farmers and ranchers, network with them and also compete in things like the discussion meet.”

The Discussion Meet competition simulates a committee meeting, and participants are evaluated on their ability to exchange ideas and information to solve a problem about a predetermined topic. They started with a field of 15 in the semifinals, before being narrowed down to 4 for the finals. Andrew Mickelsen was the eventual winner.

“It feels really great. I’ve being doing the discussion meet for probably the last 8-10 years as well. I’ve been to state very time I’ve competed in districts, I’ve been in the final four a few times and so it feels great to finally make it. Move onto nationals, kind of a relief because they won’t let me compete again here,” said Mickelsen.

And before he attends the nationals in Atlanta, Andrew got some advice from several past winners.

“...Or critique, critique,” said Andrew. “Whether he wants it or not he hasn’t walked away yet, so we just keep talking. We’re all discussion meet winners, so we obviously know how to talk,” said past winner Paige Nelson.

“The quality and the talent with those that were here, every one of them could have been a first-place winner and they were in my book. I would never have wanted to have judged it because it was like, I think it was a four-way tie in every one that I was in. Great future for this organization, because you see it in the knowledge and experience in these young farmers,” said Bryan Searle, President of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.

The topic for the final four was about farmers and farm families experiencing stress and mental health issues. “Mental health and stress management have been taboo topics in the agricultural industry for too long,” said panelist Cole Lickley.

The panelist discussed a variety of ideas to proactively address the problem.

“You know, I think mental health is an important issue. For the country as a whole, they say that 1 out of 4, 1 out of 5 people are currently suffering from mental illness of one sort or the other, and so I think it’s important that we’re talking about it, but I think we’ve also learned that farmers; where they’re isolated by themselves especially with the pandemic, I think that they’ve also withdrawn a little bit more, so I think it’s an important subject to talk about,” said Mickelsen.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), farmers rank in the top ten occupations for suicide rates. 

“The suicide rates in farming is definitely high, especially when you look at the management and leadership which is a lot of what young farmers and ranchers or the farm bureau as a whole is about. And so, we need to be looking at that, we need to be looking at ways to help those that are struggling at times and being able to see the signs in others of when they need help,” said Mickelsen.

If you or someone you know needs help, there are resources available.

Go to text version of this story to find phone numbers and links that can help.

Idaho Suicide Prevention Hot Line (208) 398-4357

National Suicide Prevention Life-Line (800)273-8255



For the voice of Idaho Agriculture, I’m Paul Boehlke.