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How preparation and planning can reduce risk management stress

2.5 min read

Understanding a farm’s risk tolerance threshold, and building a management plan around it, can be a critical part of weathering future challenges – both financially and mentally.

Being prepared for business risk is just one facet of mental health in the agriculture sector, says Adelle Stewart, former Executive Director of Do More Ag, a national mental health charitable organization.

But different comfort levels with risk, and that it requires spontaneity in day-to-day farm management can make it difficult to navigate.

“Planning for a very spontaneous person can cause more stress than adapting on the fly,” Stewart says, adding unforeseen circumstances are almost inevitable no matter how much time you spend developing backup plans. Therefore, even those who prefer to plan extensively can spend too much time worrying.

“It can put some people in a spiral and cause anxiety,” she says. “We talk about understanding personal resilience, values and encourage people to find what works best for them.”

Preparedness is not predicting the future

Risk management activities in the farm sector tend to focus on managing financial risk, says Heather Watson, Executive Director of Farm Management Canada. However, other risks, such as human resources, also exist and tie back to business planning.

Planning means preparing for what might happen – not trying to predict what will happen.

“We are trying to encourage producers and the sector at large to take a more comprehensive approach to managing risk,” Watson says. “Regularly following a written business plan contributes to peace of mind and more effective coping mechanisms.”

Watson stresses planning means preparing for what might happen – not trying to predict what will happen.

“This is a key shift in current perceptions of planning,” Watson says, noting that when critical events occur, it’s an opportunity for producers to reflect on their preparedness, and how they can better prepare for uncertainty and risk.

Resources to help

A recent study by Farm Management Canada (FMC) indicates that up to 80% of Canadian farmers experience middle to high stress levels. With these findings and other pressures on the sector in mind, FMC included mental health as a prominent part of AgriResponse.ca, an online initiative designed to answer the farm community’s questions on contingency planning, emergency preparedness and strategies for improving resilience.

Visitors can post questions about business management and have them answered by industry experts through various forms – from written responses to podcasts and webinars. A third component includes other support programs and resources.

“We (hope to) help farmers consider emergency preparedness measures and contingency planning as a necessary component to managing the farm — to be prepared for whatever may happen, drawing on their current experiences,” Watson says.

“AgriResponse is a way for us as an industry to focus our attention on the concerns expressed by producers, straight from the horse’s mouth.”

Bottom line

With up to 80% of Canadian farmers experiencing middle to high stress levels, it’s important to develop a comprehensive approach to managing risk, experts say. Address financial risk but don’t forget about other risks, such as challenges with staff or supply chain relationships. Resources such as AgriResponse help answer farm management questions, which can ease some stress on the farm.

Article by: Matt McIntosh

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