Photo by Farm Credit Mid-America.

Offering a little help to make life work

By Matt Reese

Sometimes, life just seems to work out. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t.

It is during those more challenging times where a program like LifeWorks can be very valuable.

The confidential program being offered by Farm Credit Mid-America is available free of charge to employees and customers. It is designed to help participants:

  • Resolve personal and emotional difficulties
  • Address marital and relationship issues
  • Strengthen relationships and improve communication
  • Deal with stress, anxiety and depression
  • Understand grief and bereavement
  • Find solutions for work-related issues
  • Work towards life goals
  • Find resources for family in the community
  • Address alcohol and drug misuse
  • Access crisis and trauma support
  • Find solutions relating to legal or financial issues
  • Obtain support for child/elder care.

“Our LifeWorks Resource Program is something we launched in March of 2020 for our employees and also our customers. It is available at no cost to customers across our 4-state territory of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee,” said Tara Durbin, senior vice president of agricultural lending for Farm Credit Mid-America. “It is a confidential resource available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It is there to help customers and their families navigate a variety of personal or work-related challenges. In all of our everyday lives we deal with stress and anxiety or depression while working through the goals we have for each of our lives. It is important for farmers and their families to have access to those resources. With LifeWorks, they can speak immediately with an experienced counsellor who will listen to their concerns and provide that support they may need and hopefully contribute to a resolution for them. We are proud to provide any information about participating in our LifeWorks program through our offices and it can be accessed through our website confidentially as well.”

LifeWorks is completely separate from Farm Credit Mid-America, in part to assure anonymity of participants.

Tara Durbin is the senior vice president of agricultural lending for Farm Credit Mid-America.

“We contract that out through our benefit program we offer employees and we extend that to our customers. Nobody internal at Farm Credit Mid-America would answer those calls,” Durbin said. “We have always had internal resources for our empoyees. Over the past handful of years we have seen the increase in need from our customers’ standpoint. In Ohio we have really focused in on farmer mental health. There is a true need there to provide farmer access to the resources they might be seeking. It is important to recognize that need. As an organization, keeping our customers at the heart of everything we do is extremely important to us. It is at our core. We are not just looking at the customer experience from a loan or crop insurance perspective. What is the wholistic experience for our customers? What is their life experience?”

LifeWorks has already made a difference for customer culture.

“We do not know who they are or where they are located but we do track this to see if our customers find this useful and we have had 15 participants call in to use this resource since March of last year. Of those, almost 40% were related to COVID-19 stress and uncertainty,” Durbin said. “It was something that was on our radar. We were working on it for a year before COVID-19. Our Human Resources department understood this was a true need.” 

Moving forward, Durbin hopes for more use, and positive outcomes from LifeWorks.

“It may still be too early to really realize what the impact of this is. For those of us who are active in farming and the ag industry, we understand that farming is a very stressful job. You can only control what you can control. You can’t control the weather. You can’t control the markets. There is definitely value with this and people can use this service for different purposes,” she said. “It does not matter the cost or the time that went into providing this service, if it saves a life it was definitely worth it. Nobody planned for a pandemic, but thankfully we had been preparing for this service before COVID-19. It ended up being brilliant timing to be able to offer this to customers immediately.”

The timing of the shutdown in Ohio was of particular concern to the farming community and farm lenders, including Farm Credit Mid-America.   

“Think of all of the uncertainty we were experiencing and all of the impacts that came along with COVID-19. Who would have thought we could not get toilet paper of all things? We had some customers who were concerned about availability of funds. COVID-19 hit in March, which is prime time here in Ohio for farmers to need access to their operating lines. They needed certainty that they could access those funds,” Durbin said. “I am very proud of Farm Credit Mid-America that we were all in our offices one day and everybody was home and working without a hitch in the process serving our customers the very next day. We had been planning through technology for what to do if something like this would happen — maybe not a pandemic, but something that would cause us to have to work remotely. We are a business that is critical to the needs of our farmers and they needed to have access to us and to have the certainty that the funds would be there to help them put out that crop that is their livelihood. I am proud we did that so gracefully and continued to serve our customers during that time.”

Durbin is also proud of Farm Credit Mid-America’s support of the Got Your Back Campaign through the Ohio Department of Agriculture, which also provides mental health resources for Ohio’s agricultural community. Both this support and the LifeWorks program fit in with the mission of the customer-owned cooperative.

“We are doing this to prioritize the well-being of our customers and the communities where we live and work,” Durbin said. “This is just one way we fill our purpose and our mission, which is to secure the future of our rural communities and agriculture.”

For more about LifeWorks, visit e-farmcredit.com/lifeworks-resource-program. For more about ODA’s Got Your Back Campaign, visit agri.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/oda/gotyourback

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