Episode 217: Marshal Sewell
For the month of May, we’re doing a special series called “Mind Your Melon” and focusing on mental health awareness for the agriculture industry. Marshal Sewell, Strategic Account Manager and Mental Health “AG-vocate” for Bayer Crop Science, and fifth generation farmer, knows first-hand the compounding stressors that deplete a healthy mindset while working on a farm.
Fall of Marshal’s senior year of high school was one of high stress. Like most seniors, he was trying to enjoy his last year of school, but also figure out what to do with his life. At the same time, his family and other local farmers were seeing issues with the plant quality of their winter strawberries. Local college researchers identified that there might have been diseases in the fields from the nursery the plants originated from. Marshal’s family tried to stay positive, but hardly got any strawberries out of that winter’s harvest. “With no clue what to do and faced with this nursery borne disease, my dad didn’t see a way out and chose to take his own life. That was my indoctrination into mental health,” Marshal says. After going through this tragedy and seeing his family struggle to overcome, plus knowing the regular farm-related stressors they had to deal with, Marshal was set on trying to identify ways to overcome this and help farmers manage their stress before it’s too late. After Hurricane Georgia hit, the Georgia Farm Bureau reached out to Marshal and asked him to share his story, hoping it will help raise awareness and show there’s hope after difficult times and tragedy. This turned into a catalyst for him to do more advocacy work and of course, after COVID-19 hit and things became even more stressful, Marshal’s been on a mission to get farmers talking honestly and openly about their mental and emotional state.
“How do we, on a farm level, manage risk and mitigate stress and difficult times, and what can we be doing more proactively even outside of the farming community to prepare ourselves for challenging times?” Marshal Sewell (10:17-10:35)
People who aren’t in the agricultural industry don’t understand the insurmountable amounts of stress on farms. There’s disease, weather changes, regularly occurring contagion, financial issues and so much more that can happen when running a farm, and there’s never an end in sight. Farmers don’t have the opportunity to pause, take a break to recharge or go on a “vacation” from these stressors. It’s compounding and only comparable to what someone in law enforcement or a Navy SEAL might go through.
Not only is there the issue of trying to be proactive in handling these issues but getting farmers to talk about their mental health stressors openly and freely. Marshal was recently speaking to a potato farmer who deals with stress all day and doesn’t want to unload it on his family when he comes home – he wants to spend time with them. He goes to the farm the next day and deals with a brand-new set of stressors, compounding on the day before. But eventually, he needs to open up to someone, whether it be his family or an outside resource.
Marshal likes to relate this to farm equipment. You wouldn’t go spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a brand-new John Deere tractor just because your current one needs some TLC. Instead, you’d do routine maintenance on it, and the same thing goes for our minds and bodies which are the only things capable of operating the tractor in the first place. If we take care of ourselves actively and regularly with simple habits like getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating plenty of healthy, fruits and vegetables, and getting in daily, active movement, we can stay health physically, mentally and emotionally which helps us better handle stress when it happens.
Another important key to our mental health is some form of “mindfulness”, a taboo word in the agricultural industry. Journaling, meditating, prayer… all of these are ways to give yourself the silent reflection needed to bring peace to your mind and come back to the present moment, rather than letting stress ruin your mental health. Lori recommends the book Miracle Morning and former Produce Mom’s guest Sarah Frey’s book The Growing Season – both which we’ll be giving away on our Instagram! Do what you can each day to create these healthy habits and, if you know someone in the agriculture industry, pass along this episode so they can feel encouraged to take care of their mental health.
How to get involved
- Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week!
- Reach out to us – we’d love to hear more about where you are in life and business! Find out more here.
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Previous episodes you may enjoy
- Episode 216: Ali Berman, Bryan O’Donnell, and James Kaechele
- Episode 215: Melissa Martinelli
- Episode 214: Zach Elkin and Sazi Bugay
- Episode 213: Anna Genasci
- Episode 212: Amalia Lommel and Leanne Ruzzamenti