Tennessee Farm Family Health & Wellness

The Tennessee Farm Family Health and Wellness Program (FFHW) is a multi-disciplinary Master Producer Program that:

  • addresses Tennessee farmer health and well-being, and
  • is focused on helping farm families and their communities make long-term health investments.

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Farm Family Health & Wellness Promo

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UT Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Announces the 2024 TN Farm Family Health and Wellness

Webinar Series on:

Jan. 25, Feb. 8, Feb. 22, March 7, and March 21. 

2024 Webinars and Topics

Jan. 25Strategic Thinking for the Farm Business: Recognizing Opportunities – Stephanie Plaster
How to Identify, Manage and Mitigate Farm Stress – Paul Norrod
Feb. 8Tough Dinner Conversations – Emily Paskewitz
 Building Connections and Changing Perspectives: Building Stress Resilience for Rural Families – Jordan Shuler
Feb. 22Farm and Ranch Succession Planning – Josh Dallin and Jake Hadfield
Mending the Stress Fence – Remington Rice and Misty Oebel
Mar. 7Tools and Strategies to Work Smarter and Safer on the Farm – TN AgrAbility; Troy Dugger, Eileen Legault and Joetta White
Farm Safety and Injuries Management – Matt Niswander
Mar. 21Closing Remarks – Andy Holt
Livestock and Stress – Kevin Thompson
Keeping Practical People Healthy – Cheryl Witt

Webinar Details

Webinars will be held from 6:00-8:00PM CST/ 7:00-9:00PM EST

Strategic Thinking for the Farm Business: Recognizing Opportunities – Stephanie Plaster, University of Wisconsin

Bio: Stephanie Plaster is an Extension Farm Management Outreach Specialist and works to incorporate research findings into outreach to the agricultural community across the state. She focuses on strategic business management for commodity and specialty crop farms. In this role, she finds and evaluates opportunities for agricultural businesses to meet their mission and goals and enhance their competitive position.

Description: Strategic thinking is the intuitive, visual, and creative process you use to make decisions. Farmers make dozens of decisions every day that affect the farm’s bottom line and future success. This session offers a handful of business analysis and strategy setting tools you can use to identify gaps and recognize opportunities that create long-term viability for a healthy, profitable farm.

How to Identify, Manage and Mitigate Farm Stress  Paul Norrod, University of Cincinnati

Description: In this presentation, Dr. Norrod with identify the different types of stress, discuss how stress impacts the body and explore with participants how they can take tangible steps to manage their stress.

Bio: Dr. Paul Norrod currently serves as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Population Health, University of Cincinnati (UC), College of Nursing. Before joining UC, he worked as an Extension Specialist for Rural Health and Farm Safety in the College of Agriculture and as a Rural Health Instructor in the College of Nursing at the University of Kentucky (UK). Dr. Norrod researches mental health challenges and suicide and specializes in developing and implementing intervention programs aimed at reducing farm stress and suicide. Dr. Norrod co-developed the award-winning BARN: Farm Dinner Theater on Mental Health and Well-being. As a native Tennessean from Cumberland County and a former farmer, Dr. Norrod believes it is important to help others by sharing his knowledge and expertise to reduce mental health challenges and prevent suicide.

Tough Dinner Conversations Emily Paskewitz, University of Tennessee

Description: Working with family members can be the best part of our lives and sometimes the most challenging. Having those tough conversations can seem daunting when family members have different perspectives and ideas about how things should happen on the farm. This presentation focuses on how to have those tough conversations with family members in constructive and productive ways. We will highlight strategies for ensuring family members are seen and heard during conversations and will provide tools to help work through disagreements.

Bio: Emily Paskewitz is an Associate Professor at the School of Communication Studies and the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. She received her PhD from North Dakota State University in group and communication and studies how family farm members successfully work together. Dr. Paskewitz grew up on her family’s dairy farm in Minnesota.

Building Connectsions and Changing Perspectives: Building Stress for Resillience for Rural Families  – Jordan Shuler, Oklahoma State University

Description: Farmers across the United States are under great pressure, ranging from difficult financial situations, unpredictable and often extreme weather events, lack of resources, and pronounced mental health challenges. These challenges go beyond any one person, one family, or one organization to solve, but we can make some changes to make a difference for ourselves and our families while we continue to work on larger problems. This presentation will revolve around strategies to maintain and improve vital social connections, working for a change of perspective on stress, practical and value centered goal setting strategies, and simple yet effective short-term stress reduction techniques. By making small changes now you can begin to move in a better direction for your own and your family’s wellbeing.

Bio: Jordan Schuler received his Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Oklahoma State University where he completed two internships involving the treatment of individuals, couples, and families experiencing a variety of mental health and relational challenges. Jordan received his bachelor’s degree in Family Studies at Weber State University and is currently a PhD student and graduate research associate at Oklahoma State University. Jordan’s research and outreach experiences include developing and assisting in the production and dissemination of extension education resources on topics of farm stress management, suicide prevention, mindfulness, and developing psychological flexibility. Jordan’s research focuses include adaptive romantic couple functioning and maintenance, pornography’s influence on couple relationships, and in fostering adaptive co-parenting dynamics.

Succession Planning – Josh Dallin, Utah State University, and Jacob Hadfield, Utah State University


Farm and Ranch Succession Planning is one of the needs expressed most by farmers and ranchers to date. To satisfy this need, Utah State University Extension Faculty teamed up with North Dakota State University Extension to learn and create a training that assists producers in their goals to create a successful succession plan. Over the last few years, they have implemented the training across the State of Utah and have also taught throughout the Nation. 

As a result of the training, participants intend to:

• Start a conversation with their family about succession planning or are already doing it (100%).

• Form a vision for the future of the family farm/ranch (86%).

• Begin gathering information and documents needed for succession (79%).

• Use the provided course workbook to begin their succession plan (90%).

This program has influenced over $280,000,000 in agricultural assets and has been recognized by the National Association of County Agricultural Agents as a State Winner, Regional Winner, and National Finalist Program for Farm and Ranch Business Management.

Bio: Josh Dallin is the Director and Extension Associate Professor for Utah State University’s Bastian Agricultural Center. Josh specializes in livestock, range, and agricultural 4-H applied research and educational programs. Previous to his current position, Josh served as an Extension Assistant Professor in Box Elder County, and prior to this he served as the Utah State 4-H Livestock and Equine Specialist. Going on 12 years with Utah State University, Josh continues to pave the way for innovation and research working in a wide array of areas such as livestock production, farm/ranch succession planning, poultry education, agricultural mental health, animal genetics, natural resources, and range plant/water management.  Josh, his wife Brooke, and their 3 children Dax, Knox, and Kyx reside in Bear River City, UT. The Dallins own and operate a competitive club lamb operation.

Bio: Jacob Hadfield is the County Extension Faculty in Juab and Utah Counties. Jake’s programs focus in ag economics, livestock, crop, and urban agriculture. Since beginning his career with USU Extension he has created and developed programs such as the Ag Wellness program (mental health), Farm and Ranch Succession Workshops, The Small Farm Water Quality Improvement Project, and Urban Agriculture Education. Jake, his wife Jessie, and their 2 boys, Hudson and Hunter, live in Springville UT, where they help on the Hadfield family farm raising both grass hay and beef cattle.

Mending the Stress Fence – Remington Rice, Michigan State University, and Misty Oebel, Michigan State University

Description: Farmers, farm workers and agricultural professionals endure numerous uncontrollable stressors. Many farmers face financial problems, market uncertainties, farm transfer issues, production challenges and communication barriers. You may know farmers who struggle with stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, indecision, or suicidal thoughts. This short program will help participants create self-awareness and provide you with tools and resources to help those in need.

Objectives: understand signs and symptoms of stress in agriculture, learn about wellness, learn how to ask open-ended questions, improve understanding and awareness of the warning signs of suicide and resources to help support someone in need.

Bio: Remington “Rem” or “Remi” Rice is a dedicated Extension educator leading the Managing Farm Stress program. This initiative offers vital resources, including teletherapy and a free online course, for recognizing stress and suicide warning signs among farmers, farm families, and agricultural professionals. As a fifth-generation farmer from Northern Michigan, Remi’s farming roots run deep in his family history. His upbringing involved raising animals for local 4-H fairs, and he still holds dear his FFA jacket. With a strong work ethic and farm-taught lessons, he pursued a doctorate in Health Psychology. In his current role at MSU Extension, Remi supports farmers across Michigan in achieving their health goals, providing assistance during challenging times. Remi offers farm support and helps framers explore the benefits of MSU Extension for their community.

Bio: Misty Oebel, a Health and Farm Stress Educator at Michigan State University Extension, serves on the Managing Farm Stress program. Dedicated to educating farmers about stress and suicide prevention, Misty connects farmers with resources like teletherapy. Based in Mount Pleasant, MI, she serves multiple counties as part of a statewide initiative. Prior to MSU Extension, Misty worked with Gratiot Isabella RESD, focusing on services for young adults. She also has a background as a Family Therapist, holding a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology with a clinical emphasis.

Tools and Strategies to Work Smarter and Safer on the Farm – TN AgrAbility; Troy Dugger, Eileen Legault and Joetta White

Description:  Learn about some physical challenges experienced by farmers that are addressed by the TN AgrAbility Program. Rural agricultural communities have a large population of farmers and farm families that face potential income loss if they are not able to work due to a physical change from an illness, accident or general age-related change. This session will provide assistive technology  solutions or modified work routines to continue farming safely. For a farmer with a disability, assistive technology is a necessity to farm independently and for other farmers it can be a time saver.  The TN AgrAbility Program provides general resources that address farming with a disability.

Bios: Troy Dugger is a Program Coordinator for the Center for Profitable Agriculture with the University of Tennessee Extension program and an official partner with the Tennessee Farm Bureau.  Dugger worked over three decades as an Extension Agent in Hickman County, TN, before joining the Center for Profitable Agriculture over five years ago. 

Dugger works with value-added agriculture, the focus of the center, as well as the Sustainable Agriculture Research Education (SARE) program, is projector director for the Tennessee AgrAbility Project, and has worked in the area of specialty crops.  

Dugger won the Tennessee Association of Agricultural Agents and Specialists (TAAA&S) Hicks Award of Excellence, has served as President and board member of this association and served as the fundraising co-chair for the 2018 national meeting of the National Association County Agricultural Agents (NACAA).

In his spare time, he can be found cheering on or attending UT football, basketball, and all other sports the university has to offer.

Bio: Eileen Legault grew up on her family farm in Ten Mile, TN, and has worked with the AgrAbility Project for 15 years and with the UTIA Extension since 2014. Eileen assists farmers with disabilities to keep farming with access to assistive technology and to improve their overall quality of life. She also works to share resources with beginning farmers, veterans and military personnel interested in transitioning into farming.  She promotes farm health and safety and covers the Eastern half of TN. TN AgrAbility partners with the Southern Ag Exchange Network (SAgE) TN to promote farm stress resources, assist on farm visits and consultations. 

Bio: Joetta T White grew up on a dairy farm in Weakley County and continues to farm with her daddy and brother, row crop/hay/raises draft horses.  Began work with UT Extension in 1988 as 4-H agent in Gibson County.  She started working with TN AgrAbility in 1997 and is housed out of Gibson County and covers the Western Region/half of Central Region. She promotes SAgE TN resources and farm health and safety wellness.  Joetta coordinates Grain Bin Safety awareness trainings statewide leading the UT Extension effort. She and her husband have 1 daughter who is a senior at Freed Hardeman University and is a collegiate basketball player. 

Farm Safety and Injury Management Matt Niswander, Family Nurse Practitioner

Description: Health issues in rural America are much different than those anywhere else. In this session, we will discuss common farming injuries and how to care for them as well as specific health issues facing our rural counties in Tennessee. You will also have an opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the health concerns of your family and your community.

Bio: Matt Niswander is a Family Nurse Practitioner and first-generation cattleman from Lawrenceburg, TN. Along with his wife, Colbie, and three sons, Jake (12), Luke (8), and Caleb (7), they raise Black Angus cattle for direct-to-consumer beef. They are also the owners of Niswander Family Medicine, a local, primary care medical practice in Lawrenceburg.

Matt has been all over the world learning and advocating for rural America and the family values that make our communities strong.  From helping to form agriculture policy in Washington, DC and in Europe, to sharing personal stories about the opioid epidemic, rural mental health, food misconceptions, and leadership growth with politicians and consumers through published articles, podcasts, and even in the streets of New York City. Matt is known for connecting with people and building authentic, personal relationships with everyone from any walk of life.

Closing Remarks – Andy Holt, Assistant Commissioner for the Business Development Division, Tennessee Department of Agriculture

Bio: Andy Holt serves as Assistant Commissioner for the Business Development Division within the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. In this role, he manages a team of Ag Business Consultants, multiple cost-share grant programs and the Market News & Livestock Grading Program.

Prior to his post at the department, Holt was a member of the Tennessee General Assembly for 10 years representing House District 76, which included all of Weakley and portions of Carroll and Obion Counties. During Holt’s service in the House of Representatives, he served as the Chairman of the Budget Subcommittee, Vice-Chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, and was granted membership to numerous other committees. Holt had the pleasure of serving as the Chairman of the Ag Day on the Hill Committee for all 10 years of his tenure. His primary goal while serving in the General Assembly was to ensure that the needs and desires of agriculture, forestry, and the rural economy were sufficiently represented. Before his service in the House, Holt worked with both Farm Credit Services and the Tennessee Farmers Cooperative.

Holt earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Economics Business with a minor in Animal Science (2004) from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and a Master of Business Administration (2007) from the University of Tennessee at Martin.  

Andy Holt and his wife, Ellie, along with their seven children live on their family farm outside of Dresden, Tenn. Although he is a first-generation farmer, Ellie’s family has been farming in West Tennessee for four generations. The Holt’s operation consists of beef, goat, and swine production, as well as custom straw and hay baling. They also host agritourism activities on their farm each fall.

Livestock and Stress – Kevin Thompson, University of Tennessee

Description: Presenting a stewardship practice that impacts both Herd and Family

Bio: Kevin Thompson is the Director of the Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center since 2010. His programs include beef cattle, agronomic studies, equine nutrition and grazing studies, reproductive training program, UT Bull Evaluation program and Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Center. He develops and leads instructional seminars on cattle behavior, low-stress livestock practices and safe livestock handling practices. Kevin was previously with Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation and Tennessee Livestock Producer, Inc. where he developed, implemented and managed a genetic improvement program (Producer Genetics); developed and provided oversight of a beef cattle marketing alliance marketing group (Tennessee Beef Producer Alliance); and created and managed a bull leasing program and replacement heifer development and marketing program to support the Tennessee Beef Producer Alliance. 

Keeping Practical People Healthy – Cheryl Witt

Description: Farm life is rewarding but provides its share of stress. Helpful ways suggested to handle stress is not always feasible on the farm due to work hours, geographic location, or available funds. This discussion explains stress and its effects on the body and provides suggestions to minimize those effects. The items suggested can be done at your convenience, at any location, and with no money out of your pocket, which also provides no excuse to NOT minimize the effects of stress!

Bio: Dr. Cheryl Witt is an Ag Extension Specialist Senior at the Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment. She uses her 30-year plus nursing experience and love for farm families to pursue her research interest of improving the health and safety of farmers and farm families.

Dr. Witt, along with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, initiated a collaborative group of key stakeholders from across the state to address the levels of stress, depressive symptoms, and suicide among our farmers as well as to promote physical health and safety in our farmers.

She uses outreach, research, collaboration, education and mainly a boots-on-the-ground approach to provide the farmers and farm families what they need where they need it.

Webinar Library and Resources

Below is a list of on-demand webinars. These are available to registered participants and can be viewed for credit in the FFHW program.

  • Safety Around the Farm           
  • Grain Bin and Farm Safety
  • Protecting Your Lungs on the Farm
  • Farm Safety/Handling Livestock       
  • Health Issues Affecting Farm Families
  • Family Relationships on the Farm
  • Talking About Tough Topics
  • Prevent and Preserve: Being Proactive to Protect Your Health
  • Productivity Protocol: Monitoring the Most Valuable Farm Asset
  • The Impact of Stress on Thinking, Decision Making, and Risk Taking
  • Managing Stress on the Farm
  • Risks in Rural America 
  • You Are Not Alone: Taking Care of Your Mental Health
  • Taking Control of Family Finances
  • Money – Let’s Talk About It 
  • Farm Transition – Planning Today for Tomorrow’s Farms 
  • Maximizing Your Body’s Endurance and Potential
  • Matter of Balance: It’s not all in your head

Click the button below to view our on-demand webinars and resources. Please note that these recorded webinars will only be available to registered participants.

*For More Information:

Janet Fox, jfox35@utk.edu

Wendy Smith, wksmith@utk.edu