Association News


Your Farm's Greatest Asset

When it comes to considering your farm’s assets, what often makes the list are items such as the number of cattle, acres of tilled land, bushels of stored grain, number of swine or poultry houses, and equipment.

All items are important but what is missing from this list of assets?


You are your farm’s greatest asset. As your local cooperative and financial partner, Cape Fear Farm Credit offers free confidential support through its Member Assistance Program and additional resources, such as the N.C. Agromedicine Institute, to help customer-owners and their families navigate a variety of personal and work-related challenges.

Member Assistance Program

“But the real products of any year’s work are the farmer’s mind and the cropland itself.” Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry, an acclaimed poet, novelist, and farmer, writes eloquently about farm life. The above quote brings to mind the well-being of the farmer. It’s a topic that carries a sense of urgency as the farm community deals with a bumper year of stressors such as COVID-19, unpredictable markets, loss of contracts, tariffs, and nuisance lawsuits.

Being intentional about self-care can go a long way toward maintaining emotional equilibrium but stressors that seem to be inherent in farming can sometimes knock us for a loop.

“The emotional system is made up of five feelings: mad, sad, scared, glad, or guilt. When all of those get to be too much, it’s time to seek help,” says Dr. Michael Hester, the director of the Pastoral Counseling and Growth Center in Asheville. “When a person is angry all the time, or they are sad all the time or scared all the time or they can’t feel glad or happy about anything or they feel guilty all the time; those are signs. If they are always feeling like they are not measuring up to everything they have to do, that’s guilt. It’s feeling responsible for everything all the time. When that gets out of whack, when that gets to be too much, that’s a sign people need some help to deal with it.”

Other signs are not being able to sleep, drinking or eating too much, never taking time to do anything for you. “That’s a sign that stress is eating you alive. If you can’t stop worrying, you’re anxious all the time, you can’t function very well, you’re not thinking very clearly, you’re not able to make good decisions, those are all stress indicators and warrant seeking help.

Available for you or your family, Cape Fear Farm Credit offers free, confidential support services through First Sun Healthy Spark. This is a service offered to our customer-owners to help them and their families navigate a variety of personal and work-related challenges. Through First Sun Healthy Spark, you can access information, resources and one-on-one support.

What Members Receive

  • Counseling sessions licensed by professional counselors via in person, video, telephonic, text or chat
  • Assistance with financial coaching; legal consultations and documents; child, adult and elder care resources; school and college resources; parenting and adoption assistance; and pet care assistance

Whether it’s solving a crisis, helping with a life problem or planning for the future, the HealthySpark program is designed to aid our customer-owners to meet challenges and fulfill their potential.

For more information, call 1-800-968-8143 or register at to take advantage of these services.

Health care professionals say the conditions are ripe for some self-care and attention to your own well-being. “It’s hard to provide self-care when your schedule is so unpredictable,” says Dr. Hester. “You’re at the mercy of the weather; you’re at the mercy of the unpredictable economy. It’s a 24/7 job. It’s important to take care of yourself.”

NC Agromedicine Institute

Farmers are usually diligent in caring for their animals and their crops, but they often do so at the peril of their own health. The 24/7 nature of farming, the day in, day out pressures of unpredictable weather and markets, the loss of contracts such as those the state’s dairy farmers are experiencing, the effects of tariffs, and now the introduction of nuisance lawsuits against the pork industry all add up to a pressure cooker situation, says Robin Tutor-Marcom, director of the N.C. Agromedicine Institute at East Carolina University.

“It’s the cumulative effect that I think we are dealing with that we haven’t had before,” says Tutor-Marcom. In a recent study the Institute conducted with farmers in the eastern part of the state, two-thirds of them have high blood pressure, even those as young as 21 years old.

Because farm stress can seem overwhelming, Tutor-Marcom says the Institute staff is working with farmers and farm families to offer specific strategies and tools to help equip them with better coping skills that contribute to greater well-being.

The Institute offers a number of programs conducted by individuals who have an understanding of the farm culture. Each staff member is from a farm family and understands how intertwined farming is with a way of life.

The N.C. Agromedicine Institute is a partnership with East Carolina University, N.C. State University, and N.C. A&T State University; it’s the only program of its kind in North Carolina and the Mid-Atlantic region.

“Our goal,” says Tutor-Marcom, “is to reduce injury and illness. Our role is very different. Most people involved in agriculture work in production, ensuring that is successful. Our focus is on the people. People drive agriculture and too often we overlook health, whether it’s physical health, or the emotional and spiritual well-being of folks.”

The Institute conducts research that leads to practical solutions and it offers educational programs  across the state.  It works directly with individuals or groups who may be employed by or related to  farming, fishing or forestry industries.

Here is a highlight of what the Institute has to offer:

Tape & Twine –Provides farmers and their families with practical solutions for dealing with farm stress.  Contact Robin Tutor-Marcom, Institute director, at or 252-744-1008.

Fit to Farm – Individuals are given simple strategies to help them put their health first. The program stresses self-care by considering what foods you eat, getting more exercise, and avoiding skipping meals. “With mechanization, farmers are in their truck, tractor, and four wheelers. We’ve seen less physical activity. Taking 30 minutes to walk, go to the gym, play basketball with the kids or grandkids can reduce stress and is good for physical health,” says Tutor-Marcom. Contact Jessica Wilburn, AgriSafe-NC Nurse coordinator, at or 252-744-1008.

AgriSafe – Trained health professionals conduct health screenings and check for general wellness and specific occupational health conditions. They also assist in the selection, fit, and use of personal protective equipment to prevent occupational illness or injuries. AgriSafe also offers support services related to issues such as insurance coverage, caring for aging family members, and stress associated with agricultural operations. For more information contact Jessica Wilburn at or 252-744-1008.

Certified Safe Farm – A safety review expert conducts an on-farm safety review designed to help prevent injury and save lives. On-farm safety reviews are not shared with any agency. Health providers are also available to conduct occupational health and wellness screenings. To schedule a safety review, contact LaMar Grafft, associate director, at or 252-744-9542.

First on Scene – Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations. Being prepared to handle emergencies can help reduce stress and can help save lives. This program teaches individuals who are first on scene of a farm incident how to respond safely to get care for the injured person and to avoid becoming the second or third victims. In addition to offering programs to farmers and farm workers, the Institute offers programs to EMS personnel and fire fighters. Contact LaMar Grafft at or 252-744-9542.

Grain Safety/Grain Rescue – Farmers, farm workers, fire fighters, and first responders learn about the hazards of grain bins, safe grain handling strategies, and hands-on rescues techniques.  Contact LaMar Grafft at or 252-744-9542.

AgrAbility – This program provides individuals who are farming with a disability with education and assistance they need to minimize obstacles that limit independence and productivity on the farm and in daily life. Contact Beatriz (Betty) Rodriguez at or 336-285-4680. Learn more at

Child Health and Safety in Agritourism – Agritourism invites the public onto your farm. This program shares helpful guidelines and resources to reduce risk of injury to visitors to the farm. Contact Robin Tutor-Marcom at or 252-744-1008.

Risk Mitigation Measures & Worker Protection Standard Respiratory Protection Compliance – Medical clearance, respirator fit tests, selection care, and purchase of respirators and other personal protective equipment to comply with EPA’s Risk Mitigation Measures for Soil Fumigants and Worker Protection Standards for mixers, loaders, handlers, and applicators comprise this program. Contact Cynthia Smith, AgriSafe-NC Nurse at or 252-744-1008.

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