Area farmers continue to face pressure after last year’s drought and a wet spring. An Iowa-based effort aims to elevate local faith leaders in lending an ear and offering guidance to area producers who might feel overwhelmed. The Moses Project, which is tied to Des Moines’ Grand View University, provides learning sessions for rural pastors to build better relationships within their area congregations and surrounding communities. Grant Woodley, a fourth-generation farmer and a Lutheran pastor in Clarion, leads the “Think Like a Farmer” session.
In turn, he says the sessions can help pastors be more responsive to issues within farming communities, such as mental health and overcoming stigma. In measuring suicide by occupation, the Centers for Disease Control lists farming in the top five. Program leaders acknowledge some farmers might still be reluctant to open up, while adding there needs to more access to mental-health providers in rural areas.
In trying to foster these conversations, Woodley says there’s room for area pastors and farmers to share a sense of purpose tied to their work.
Officials with the Moses Project say they’re currently working with pastors in nine states while covering roughly 100 communities. They say they hope the mentorships lead to more innovation in helping rural areas thrive in addressing social needs. Beyond mental health, leaders say there are opportunities in areas such as food insecurity.