Lesley Kelly

Lesley Kelly speaks at Ag PHD in August 2019. As the founder of Do More Agriculture Foundation, Kelly has toured speaking on mental health.

Helping one another isn’t something those in the agricultural industry even have to consider. If a neighbor needs a quick hand, you’re over there in a heartbeat. But helping one another with unseen issues is a whole other issue that Lesley Kelly hopes the industry can come together to fix.

Kelly, founder of Do More Agriculture, will deliver the keynote address about mental health struggles and how to overcome them at the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association (SDCA) annual trade show and convention in Pierre Wednesday, Dec. 4.

Kelly’s talk, titled “Breaking Barriers in Agriculture: Can you imagine having one conversation that can save someone’s life?” has been featured in many locations over the last few years. It’s a topic that she said becomes more and more important each year during a summer address she made during the AgPhD Field Day in Baltic, South Dakota.

As a newly cemented motivational speaker and social media personality, Kelly founded Do More Agriculture to help stem the discomfort with discussing mental health in the farming and ranching community.

She and her husband both struggled with mental health issues and depression as full-time farmers in Canada. Because of that struggle, she began reaching out to her neighbors and friends.

Mental health discussions have become more prevalent as of late, as the farm economy continues to struggle under outside pressures and trade wars. That’s why the cattlemen’s association chose to bring in Kelly to speak at the annual convention.

“Our leadership felt with the farm economy struggling and a lot of stress out there – and of course, the outlooks don’t sound fantastic – they felt like it would be a good time to address a topic we haven’t talked about,” Jodie Anderson said.

Anderson, the executive director of the state cattlemen’s association, said that in her 15 years on the job, SDCA has never featured a mental health discussion at their convention, but now is the time.

For an industry that talks about taking care of their animals, ranchers need a reminder that they need to take care of themselves as well, she said.

As SDCA put together the convention program, Anderson said they had to ask the same question they always ask themselves: “How can we help producers?” It is especially important at a time when it can be difficult to stay positive about the industry’s outlook.

Overall, Anderson said she’s glad that different topics will be addressed this year. Getting the right tools and information to their ranchers is key as the industry slowly transitions to a new generation that is taking over family ranching operations.

“Our industry is going to be facing a big change over the next few years,” she said. “It’s going to lead us to be rethinking how we do a lot of things potentially.”

As the association prepares new ways to reach its audience, Anderson said mental health discussions will become part of the norm. She wants to make sure those struggling aren’t being told to “just get over” their issues.

“We’re really going to have to rethink how we deliver our services to our members,” she said.

For those looking for more analytical talks, Anderson said panels have been set up to discuss livestock risk management – which has been a topic from the Midwest all the way to Washington, D.C., over the last half a year.

“There is something there for everybody to learn,” she said.

Kelly will deliver her keynote address during the noon hour on Wednesday. The day before, SDCA will host its panel on livestock investment management and other ways to appropriately market products.

See a full schedule starting on page 2A.

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Reach Reporter Jager Robinson at 605-335-7300, email jager.robinson@lee.net or follow on Twitter @Jager_Robinson.