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Farmer well-being

One of the pillars of sustainability is social welfare. An aspect of social welfare that I think receives little focus is the well-being of farmers. Farming is a stressful business. Farmers are subject to many influences that are very much outside of their control, for example the weather and fluctuating prices for their produce. For farmers, much like anyone, job satisfaction, stress relief and an ability to be optimistic about the future are important to their well-being and happiness.

Soil health farmers are happier farmers

So what makes farmers happy? Well a recent study done in South Dakota, USA1, found that farmers who implement soil health practices are happier. The results of the poll showed that “a significantly higher percentage of producers who are using soil health improving practices on their operations experienced less stress, are more satisfied with farming and/or ranching and are more optimistic about their futures than their conventional peers.”

It was interesting to note that the author of the study, Larry Gigliotti further stated that: “Even among producers who reported using some soil health practices on their operations, the ones using more of those practices reported less stress, greater farming satisfaction and greater optimism”.

Regenerative farming

We have made the argument for regenerative agriculture, with a focus on soil health, from multiple perspectives. The healthier soil is, the better it holds water, cycles nutrients and the better habitat it provides for soil organisms. All these benefits lead to increased productivity and decreased environmental impact. The angle that we have not previously explored is the well-being of farmers.

I am encouraged to hear that farmers in South Dakota find greater satisfaction and are more optimistic because they identify as soil health farmers. The results might be different in other countries, but I think the principle translates. Farmers who understand soil health must have a long-term focus, hence the optimism. The increase in productivity should also lead to greater optimism. Satisfaction can come from trying new and innovative practices and seeing positive results. Improving soil health also makes a farm more resilient, and therefore less subject to the external pressures of climate and price fluctuations. This should lead to a reduction in stress.

Are you a happy farmer?

I would encourage every farmer to consider these three questions:

  1. Are you satisfied with farming?
  2. Are you optimistic about the future?
  3. Are you stressed about your farm?

Based on your responses, do you think you need to make any adjustments in how you farm?


  1. – Accessed 22 April 2020
Craig Galloway