Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew and Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn announced nearly half a million in federal and provincial funding for the Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program (MFWP) while at Ag Days in Brandon this week.
The grassroots non-profit organization, which started providing free counselling to farmers and farm families in 2022, will receive $450 thousand over the next three years under the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership.
The government contribution will make a significant difference for an organization that’s been running on an annual budget of around $200 thousand, says MFWP chair Marcel Hacault, in the interview below.
“We’ve had a lot of private and agribusiness sponsors of the program to date, and we’ve been having some discussions with the government to see if they wanted to jump on board and help us. And yesterday, Premier Kinew made a great announcement, talking about how agriculture was the backbone of Manitoba, and how he wanted to help farmers out and their path to being well,” he says.
The announcement came as “a very pleasant surprise,” says Hacault, noting it will allow them to go back to the drawing board to build on what they currently offer the farm community.
As part of the program, a farmer or rancher, their family member, or — as of last month — a farm employee can choose receive up to six confidential counselling sessions at no cost. Anyone seeking help can choose between several counsellors who are familiar with the unique stressors of farming, such as the seasonality of the business, impact of weather, and market fluctuations.
Since launching in 2022, the program has worked with over 32 industry partners to promote mental wellness and coping strategies.
“First of all, we wanted to raise the awareness so that farmers know that this service is available, and then to reduce the stigma, because farmers will go to their accountants when they need to help with accounting, they’ll go to their doctor when their back hurts, and they’ll go to the mechanic when their tractors don’t work. We want them to be feel free to go to the counsellor when their wellness isn’t great. And I think that’s slowly changing. We’re seeing that in some of the numbers with the counsellors,” says Hacault.
Check out the video below for more with Manitoba Farmer Well Program chair Marcel Hacault: