Free Webinar on Rural Mental Health

NY FarmNet Webinar on May 29 Talks Mental Health Crisis in Rural Communities

Susan Payne
By  Susan Payne , DTN Social Media and Young Farmer Editor
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Fourth-generation farmers Christopher and Eve Pawelski open up about mental health in the agriculture documentary called Muckville, produced by Jeff Mertz. (Photo courtesy of Christopher and Eve Pawelski)

Editor's Note: This article mentions suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please immediately call 988, the national suicide and crisis lifeline.


OMAHA (DTN) -- While more farmers are opening up about mental health, organizations like NY FarmNet are inviting farmers to listen in on the conversation.

With a message that resonates far beyond its central location, NY FarmNet, an organization that helps farms navigate transition, opportunity and challenge within the state, is hosting a free webinar and live Q&A on Wednesday, May 29 that is open to the public featuring the makers of the documentary "Muckville," that explores the link between American farmers and suicide.

Muckville, produced by Jeff Mertz, follows Christopher Pawelski, a fourth-generation onion farmer on the post-glacial black dirt of Goshen, New York, and his wife Eve. Christopher, after a series of weather events, family health and financial struggles, suffered a mental health crisis. He had thoughts of suicide and depression that, at the time, seemed like "the easier way out."

Raising onions for more than half of his life on a 110-acre family farm in upstate New York, Pawelski found his career and life abruptly turned upside down. This included the loss of his father, several flooding and other weather-related disasters in the area that wiped out any and all potential profit, and market uncertainties.

Pawelski suffered from depression and had thoughts of suicide, but after adequate assessment of where the farm stood monetarily, he knew he needed to make a change, even if his identity as an onion farmer was at stake.

"It starts as a rational thought. I don't think it's that you want to die, you just want the situation to end," Pawelski said in an interview with DTN as he recalled dark times. "To give up on something you've been doing most of your life, the fabric of your life and your identity, that's hard."

With the help of NY FarmNet, the support and guidance of his wife Eve, and mental health therapy, Pawelski was able to navigate the complexity of his struggles and transition the original 110-acre family farm from wholesale commercial onion sales to direct-to-consumer mixed greens on a much smaller scale.

"It's getting better as time progresses. To do something for 47 years, then suddenly walking into that change, it's extremely hard," Pawelski said.

On Wednesday, May 29, Pawelski and Mertz join NY FarmNet in a free webinar titled Farmer Mental Health in New York State: A Story of Crisis and Advocacy from the Makers of the Documentary "Muckville" -- the hour-long webinar starts at 12 p.m. CDT.

During the webinar, NY FarmNet will play the documentary and open up a Q&A with the creators focusing on Pawelski and Mertz' passion for advocating for farmer mental health.

Register for this free event here:…

Muckville can be streamed on HUDSY here:…

Susan Payne can be reached at

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Susan Payne

Susan Payne
Connect with Susan: