Get ready folks, the much anticipated and requested Alberta approach to farm mental health is launching their first community engagement campaign this February 2023. Press packages, presentations, courses and professional development opportunities are in the works, and staff are starting to reach out to spread the news that AgKnow is now open for business.
It has been a whirlwind of activity since the Whitepaper was published in the spring of 2022. This fall, Minister Horner approved additional funding to advance the development of the AgKnow initiative, develop our referral program, and jump start associated research initiatives with the UofA. AgKnow now hosts 11 mental health professionals with various specialties and have experience working with farm families in rural Alberta. We are pleased to offer farmers and members of their households two free sessions with one of these professionals. The research program is now hiring staff and starting their research interviews, as well as pulling together evidence-based training materials that will form the basis of AgKnow program delivery in the coming year.
“Support and requests for services are coming in from all sides. The value of AgKnow is in our connection with the agriculture community though ARECA, ASBs, Ag-business and the provincial and federal governments. We are in a good position to keep our finger on the pulse of farming in Alberta, and communicate needs and recommendations to program and policy people in health and agriculture. Essentially bridging gaps and providing feedback and recommendations that have positive impacts to the health and wellbeing of Alberta farmers and their families.” (Linda Hunt, AgKnow Director)
According to Linda, the initiative is off to a good start, with a lot more in development. AgKnow stands out with their commitment to creating lasting impact based on local evidence and backed by expertise. This is the main reason so much of the initial seed funding has been dedicated to local research projects, that will influence the direction over the next few years. Certainty about the local situation will ensure that they are focused on addressing the right issues.
The current funding for this initiative runs out at the end of the fiscal year on March 31, 2023, but the AgKnow staff is optimistic about finding other sources of income to keep things moving. In addition to pursuing charity status, building a partnership program and working with ag associations on fundraising, they will be submitting a 5-year funding proposal under Alberta’s Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (SCAP) this spring.
As always, the goal is to keep AgKnow lean and efficient while providing maximum returns to the farm families that are at the heart of the initiative. As Hunt explains, “It’s been sad but encouraging to hear the stories of the people who have been reaching out to add their voice to this initiative. So many people suffering, persevering and grateful to see AgKnow. These people have all had a hand in setting priorities and steering this initiative. This spring we are planning engagements with individuals and associations within our Network that will set the goals and priorities for the next few years. I can’t wait.”
Anyone wanting to be involved is encouraged to visit the AgKnow.ca website and subscribe to the blog and follow them on social media to learn about upcoming news, events and opportunities. A donation button will be going up on the website shortly, and sponsorship packages are available upon request thought the website or by contacting Linda directly at email@example.com