A farmer stands in the middle of a soybean field with his back to the camera.

Farming mental health doc ‘Independent Lens: Greener Pastures’ premieres March 25

March 5, 2024 Alyssa Beno Leave a Comment

There is a mental health crisis happening for many American farmers.

A combination of climate change, the pandemic and the domination of megafarms have contributed to increasing economic uncertainty and isolation.

Following four family farms in the Midwest over several years, Independent Lens: Greener Pastures is a story of perseverance and survival within the farming industry in the heartland. It premieres 8 p.m. Monday, March 25 on PBS Wisconsin and streaming on the free PBS App.

Jeff Ditzenberger is a corn and soybean farmer from Wisconsin who tried to end his own life years ago. Today, he runs a nonprofit that talks to farmers across the Midwest about mental health and suicide prevention.

Jay Simeral is a sixth-generation farmer. With his wife Melissa, the family navigates financial struggles and successes, including competition from larger farms, bankruptcy and the difficult decision to allow fracking on their land.

Chris Petersen is a livestock farmer lobbying tirelessly for farmers’ rights. His daughter, Becky Higgins, runs a small sustainable farm with her husband. She was elected district soil and water commissioner in the fall of 2020, continuing her father’s political legacy.

Juliette Albrecht is a dairy farmer in Minnesota. Once a dairy show competitor, she now struggles with alcoholism but is getting better through rehab. Faced with increasing rent and COVID-based industry disruptions, she is forced to move to another farm.

The film was created by filmmakers Samuel-Ali Mirpoorian and Ian Robertson Kibbe.

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