Farm Stress and the Production of Sacrifice Zones

Authors: Bradi Heaberlin*, Indiana University
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Political Geography, Regional Geography
Keywords: farmland, mental health, stress, finance, capital, farming, agriculture
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 11
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

For years, farmer suicides have recurrently made the news as the long downturn of the farm economy and collapse of rural institutions leads farmers to despair. Surges in farm stress come as farming communities in the Midwest US are gradually hollowed out and transformed into sacrifice zones by global capital. The financial sector drives the production of rural sacrifice zones, whose symptoms can be seen in farmland consolidation and the dissolution of schools, hospitals, post offices, nursing homes and other community institutions that are vital to economic and social life in rural communities (Edelman, 2019). Using a suite of qualitative and quantitative methods, we juxtapose data from a farmer-oriented crisis hotline in the rural Midwest alongside semi-structured interviews with people working in organizations that are responding to the current epidemic of farm stress. Taking these sources of data together, we are able to locate the roots of, and resources available for, farm-related stress. Our findings suggest the current resources available to farmers in distress do not address the ways in which farming communities are being transformed into sacrifice zones by global capital, instead targeting individual farmers’ responses to the hollowing out of rural communities. Our study situates farm stress in the context of increasingly consolidated and financialized farmland and rural economies, de-pathologizing the stress farmers face and locating it in the political economy of sacrifice zones.

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