The Southern Ag Exchange Network’s farm stress line is fully operational thanks to the hard work of SAgE staff and partners.
The USDA funds SAgE through the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), and one of the USDA’s requirements for regional FRSAN efforts is the provision of a farm stress hotline. There are three contracted entities who are working with SAgE to address this requirement:
- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s Concern Line, which has operated as a stress hotline for farmers for more than 30 years, will run the SAgE Hotline and has collaborated on SAgE’s strategy for creating an effective hotline. The Concern Line was established during the 1980s farm crisis to connect farmers to resources.
- Callers may be referred to Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), whose farm advocacy services primarily focus on struggling farms, financial management and assistance, and technical support. They bring an additional level of support for farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers who may benefit from more extensive, non-crisis services.
- Farm Aid, which receives calls from all over the country, will collect data on incoming hotline calls from the southern region of the U.S. and provide anonymized data to SAgE for evaluation purposes.
Types of Hotlines
In the world of crisis intervention, there are typically three types of hotlines: a suicide hotline, which helps people who are in immediate crisis and at risk of harming themselves; a stress or crisis hotline, which may provide some crisis de-escalation and mental health-informed support as well as information and referral to other resources; and what is known as a “warm line,” which offers mental health support from operators who are peers with direct knowledge of the target demographic.
The SAgE Hotline, operated by ISU’s Concern Line, is a mix of crisis hotline and warm line models. Concern Line and SAgE Hotline specialists are trained at high levels of crisis intervention in the event that a caller is experiencing an immediate crisis, but the hotline’s primary focus is on preventing crisis and addressing the root causes of stress through support and referrals. Read the full press release about the hotline here.
Meet the Team
Four individuals’ work will be instrumental in the success of the hotline and the efficacy of the interactions with farmers who reach out for assistance.
Rachael Jones is the SAgE-specific Hotline operator working with the Concern Line to field calls from the Southern region. It was important to SAgE to have a dedicated operator from an agricultural background who lives in the region, and Rachael, who was born and raised in a small rural farming community and currently resides in Jonesboro, Arkansas, is an ideal fit. Rachael has worked in higher education, wellness, and crisis services for 14 years. She holds a master's degree in educational leadership and policy studies from Iowa State University. She considers herself a cowgirl, having been around horses all her life. She identifies with the cowgirl spirit, belief, and grit that is iconic of the challenges cowgirls take on daily. No matter how far she is from the saddle, those ideals stay with her.
Liz joins the team as the Farm Advocacy Program Manager. She grew up on a farm in Virginia and has a decade of experience supporting local food systems and community health. Over the years, Liz has served as a nonprofit leader, educator, healthcare worker, and chaplain. She has a BA and MA from Virginia Tech and a Master of Divinity from Wake Forest University School of Divinity, where she was a Re:Generate Fellow in the Food, Health, and Ecological Well-Being Program. She cares deeply about sustaining our connections to the land and waters we call home. Liz currently lives with her partner in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. She enjoys spending quality time with family on their farm in coastal Virginia and going to the mountains or beach for hiking and fishing adventures.
Tammy Jacobs, Hotlines Manager—ISU, Extension and Outreach, helps individuals to improve their lives by listening, providing information and referrals, and teaching them to care for themselves through her work. In her years at Extension and Outreach, she has filled different roles, but they have all focused on helping individuals to improve their lives. Helping to grow and expand the Concern Line has been one of her greatest goals, and with the addition of SAgE’s Hotline, that has been accomplished: Concern Line is now the hotline for 25 states and two U.S. territories. Tammy is a trained Mental Health First Aid Youth and Adult instructor who is passionate about decreasing the risk of suicide. She is a proud graduate of Drake University and mother of two daughters and many four-legged babies.
Hannah McCreery Brinson is SAgE's Strategic Projects Specialist and oversees the SAgE Hotline. She is an experienced leader, grant administrator, and program development professional. Driven by a passion for strategic rural community innovation, Hannah has a Master of Science in Child and Family Studies from the University of Tennessee, an undergraduate degree in Women’s Studies from Berea College, and 15 years of experience with rural southern and Appalachian social services agencies and nonprofits. In her role at SAgE, she provides critical oversight to the accessibility and applicability of regional work including the SAgE Hotline and US Virgin Islands Farm Stress Project (SAgE-VI). Hannah is a native Tennessean and currently lives in Knoxville. She has three kids who keep her busy and an ever-growing collection of pets.