Flooding stresses Prairie farmers

Flood waters are receding in parts of the Prairies but something else may be rising — the stress levels of farmers whose lands are waterlogged.

Health officials in Sask. issue stress warnings to farmers

A house that was in danger of falling into Ross Creek on Monday, has survived in Medicine Hat, Alta. Parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are recovering from severe flooding that has left farmland submerged, homes flooded, and roads and rail lines washed out. ((Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press))
Flood waters are receding in parts of the Prairies but something else may be rising — the stress levels of farmers whose lands are waterlogged.

Collin Redman was only able to seed about 405 hectares of his 2,630-hectare farm near Invermay, in eastern Saskatchewan, because of flooding.

"It just rained and rained and rained and wouldn't let up," said Redman. "I've been farming for 23 years and my dad's been farming 20 years longer than that and neither one of us has seen it this bad."

Redman said crop insurance payments will help a little, but the amount is "a far cry" from what the grain would have been worth if it was planted. The impact will mean less income for his family.

"Not knowing where your next dollar is going to come from is a stress in itself and you know, you try not to let it bother you but it does. It's always in the back of your mind," said Redman.

"But I'm optimistic, hoping that we get enough to make our payments somehow whether it's insurance programs or government programs. We're just hoping it's enough to get us by until next year.

"There's nothing I can do. You just have to have a good strong mind."

Redman is not alone.

5 million hectares go unseeded

Heavy rainfalls have washed out great swaths of fields across the Prairies and the Canadian Wheat Board estimates upwards of five million hectares of central Canadian farmland won't be seeded this year.

Dozens of rural municipalities, especially in northeast and central Saskatchewan, have declared themselves agricultural disaster areas because they are too wet for farmers to plant crops.

In southeastern Alberta, Robin Batten is surveying the damage that recent flooding has done to her family's farm near Irvine. Irvine was hit by a flash flood Friday following weeks of rain punctuated by a sudden massive downpour that caused a nearby creek to come crashing over its banks.

"The stress level was high the first day and I would say today it's probably higher than that just because the water level's coming down [and] you're starting to see more of the damage," said Batten.

"Trying to get a hold of people to get answers through the county or the government and not getting anything yet, not getting a hold of anyone or anyone returning calls, that's the most stress right now."

Stress warning issued, hotlines set up

The flooding has prompted at least one health region in Saskatchewan to issue a notice to farm families about the warning signs of stress, including increased heart rate, rapid breathing, tense muscles, heightened blood pressure, sleep and appetite problems and irritability.

"We had a concern with all the wet weather, the inability for many farmers to get their land seeded or worry that what they have seeded is not going to come up because much of it is under water due to ongoing rain," said Chris Bohun, of the Sunrise Health Region.

"We just had concerns for folks and wanted to make sure that they're aware that we're there to support them."

The health region says farmers should talk with family members or ask for help because stress can put them at risk of depression.

Farmers in Saskatchewan can call the Ministry of Agriculture's Farm Stress Line at 1-800-667-4442 for confidential peer telephone counselling, support, information and referral services.

The Manitoba Farm and Rural Stress Line also offers confidential information, support, counselling and referrals for farm and rural families. It can be reached at 1-866-367-3276.

Batten said her family has been supportive and while the situation is stressful, she won't let it get her down.

"I think you just have to keep your chin up and do what you can do. You can't do the impossible and get everything done straight away, and each day is a new day and the sun's out today, which made me very, very happy," she laughed.

"It's starting to dry up so you gotta think positive."