Being a farmer means you are always at the whim of Mother Nature. You stay up late watching over spring lambs in the field, wake up early to pick the harvest, then head off to the farmers market.
Farming is hard, and in any given year it can be easy to get sad or feel defeated. Like when the sun shines too hot, the rain doesn’t fall for too long, and a whole crop of lettuce is lost after you miss just one day of hauling water. Or when the rain simply won’t stop and all of your root crops rot. A surprise freeze after the blooms are on in the orchard? That ends your hopes for an entire year’s worth of peaches, as well as income your family depends on to pay the mortgage.
It’s a gamble to be a farmer, and, unfortunately, Mother Nature is no longer the only factor at play. These days, farming can feel more than hard, as cultural factors push payment for hard work down to almost nothing. The gamble farmers must make in order to produce now fades into the background as commodity convenience and commercially made food render growers’ struggles invisible to consumers.
It’s difficult to make ends meet, and farms are going under at record rates. Farmers have a tougher time hanging in there each year, and community appreciation for their hard work seems to be at an all-time low.
We have a big problem with suicide and depression in the farming community, and these days it’s not hard to see why. So this week I thought I would take time to list some of the things we can grow to help. All of these plants have been clinically studied for their benefit in cases of depression, stress and anxiety, and they can be grown in temperate climates as annuals, if not as perennials.
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)—root
- Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)—flower
- Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)—leaf
- Lavender (Lavendula officinalis)—oil diffused and flower internally
- Maca (Lepidium meyenii)—root
- Rose (Rosa spp.)—leaf and flower
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)—leaf
- Saffron (Crocus sativus)—stigma and styles
- St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)—leaf and flower
It’s very important to understand that, in cases of severe depression, none of these plants can do all the work. There is no replacement for therapy; a diet rich in B-complex, omega-3s and magnesium; and sometimes prescription medicine when chronic depression sets in.
But if you are a farmer who feels underappreciated and sometimes a bit alone, these are good plants to have in your garden. Most can be prepared dried or fresh into teas, or you can add them to meals for some extra support.
As farmers, we’re good at growing things. And, in times of feeling low, the things we grow in our gardens can be a good source of support.