Deborah VanBerkel of Odessa, Ont., has won the Canadian Federation of Agriculture award for her work on mental health for farming families.
She is a registered psychotherapist who persuaded the Lennox & Addington Federation of Agriculture to launch a program to encourage stressed farm families to seek mental help by offering free services.
She has won an award named for the late Brigid Rivoire, former executive director for the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
“Being a part of the mental health and addictions world for so long, I realized there were no services to the agricultural community and I wanted to see if we could create something,” she said.
The Farmer Wellness Program pilot launched in 2019. It provides users with four free counselling sessions, flexible appointment options and access to a professional with a background in agriculture.
Prior to the program’s launch, she said farmers were reluctant to seek out professional help because a counsellor wouldn’t understand the unique challenges farmers face.
She and her husband, Steve, are dairy farmers.