In the middle of the Pacific, where lush green landscapes meet the calm blue waters, Hawaii boasts a strong agricultural heritage that has long sustained its island communities. Amidst the beauty and bounty, the challenges faced by farmers, ranchers, and allied operators (FRAOs) have never been more profound. Recognizing the pressing need for comprehensive mental health and wellness support, the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network for the State Department of Agriculture (FRSAN-SDA) emerges as a critical lifeline for those tilling the soil and raising livestock across the island chain.

FRSAN-SDA embodies a pioneering initiative developed in response to the escalating levels of stress, anxiety, uncertainty, and mental health concerns affecting the agricultural sector in Hawaiʻi. This network stands as a collaborative endeavor, weaving together the collective efforts of agriculturalists, agricultural associations, community organizations, mental health professionals, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the University of Hawaiʻi, and the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture (HDOA). Its overarching mission is to cultivate resilience among FRAOs and their families, offering a robust framework of support to weather the storm of challenges that can often feel overwhelming.Larry Jefts' Kelena Farms has produced record harvests as part of the Whitmore Project on former Galbraith lands on Oahu

At the core of FRSAN-SDA lies a multifaceted approach that addresses the unique stressors faced by Hawaii’s agricultural community. Through outreach programs, workshops, counseling services, language translations, and online resources, FRSAN-SDA is committed to removing barriers to mental health care, fostering a culture of open dialogue, and offering mutual support. The network understands that seeking assistance is not a sign of weakness, but rather a testament to the strength it takes to confront adversity. This challenge is compounded in an industry that prides itself on a tough, independent and self-reliant mindset, and complicated further by a diverse culture identity that isn’t comfortable talking about mental health issues.

These vital resources would not be possible without the generous investment from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which contributed nearly $25 million for 50 grants supporting FRSAN-SDA projects.

Background            Mission Statement & Initiative        Resources        Publications