Farm income is down. Stress levels are increasing. Climate change is leading to more extreme weather, causing difficult growing conditions. The current generation of farmers is growing older, raising questions about who takes over Minnesota’s family farms.

Agriculture and rural communities are at an important moment of transition, one that is increasingly making headlines in Minnesota and around the country. But at the University of Minnesota, we remain optimistic, tackling these challenges through research, education and outreach. We are seeking solutions and providing support, working directly with producers and agriculture professionals to make operations a little easier, expertise a little more accessible and the future a little more stable.

We are working to help farmers, with not only reliable and trusted counsel, but also innovative approaches adaptive to today.

Through Extension, outreach professionals have long provided financial training and education to ensure farmers know how to strengthen their bottom lines. This is especially important now, during a time of low income at home and trade wars around the world. Extension provides research-driven information to help farmers make decisions in uncertain times such as these.

This year, amid reports of growing stress and strain in the field, we launched a rural stress task force to connect farmers and others in agriculture to mental health resources. We see how challenging conditions can affect a farm family’s well-being and we are there to help connect farmers to the help they need.

University researchers and experts, including those at our 10 Research and Outreach Centers around the state, are working to break new ground on hardy crops and sustainability techniques that open new markets for farmers despite the threat of climate change. College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences experts are researching everything from soil microbiomes to artificial intelligence and remote sensing technologies to assure improved yields and profitability for farmers while protecting our environment. CFANS’ research has direct, applicable impact on Minnesotans in agriculture, laying the foundation for a more productive future.

We are committed to training the next generation of farmers. Each year, hundreds of food science and agriculture students graduate from CFANS. Across the U of M System, our students have many educational and in-the-field training opportunities, from traditional research work and internships to unique projects like growing new crops at an on-campus organic farm or working on food sovereignty with Native American tribes. Minnesota’s farms are in good hands, now and in the decades to come.

Supporting our state’s farmers is a fundamental task for the University of Minnesota. Our land-grant mission compels us to innovate and advance agriculture in this state. We take that responsibility seriously.

Our commitment to farmers is borne out of our connection to them. With Extension and Research and Outreach Centers throughout Minnesota, farmers and their families are our neighbors, our friends and our childrens’ classmates. When they need help, we’re there for them. Agriculture is an $18 billion industry in Minnesota. But it’s more than a business for us: it’s also personal.

At Farmfest, we spoke with farmers about the challenges we’re facing in agriculture. With harvest around the corner, we stand with every Minnesota farmer. The University of Minnesota is proud of our partnership with producers, agriculture professionals and farm families around this state, now more than ever.

Bev Durgan is a dean with University of Minnesota Extension and Brian Buhr is a dean with University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Reach Regional Managing Editor Suzanne Rook at 507-333-3134. Follow her on Twitter @rooksuzy

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