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Kentucky Department of Agriculture names advisory council members for Raising Hope mental health program

Mayberry Health and Home

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has appointed its first advisory council for its Raising Hope mental health program. It helps give farmers and other rural Kentuckians easier access to resources.

"We've always known that there had been a mental health crisis across rural Kentucky,” Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles said. “But after COVID-19, we realized that this was a nationwide problem that not just affected the farming community, but really our society as a whole."

Quarles says farmers can face unique mental health challenges because of specific issues in their field.

"Sometimes when we have bad weather, most Kentuckians are unaffected by it,” Quarles said. “But if you're a farmer, sometimes that bad weather can lead to financial loss. Another mental stress is that farming is highly complex. And you don't get paid every few weeks, like most jobs."

Nine members, including farmers, college professors and agriculture experts were appointed to the council. That includes:

  • Ryan Bivens, Hodgenville, farmer
  • Kendal Bowman, Owenton, Owen County ag and natural resources agent
  • Elizabeth Gordon, Frankfort, Director of Education and Outreach at Kentucky Department of Agriculture
  • Susan Jones, Bowling Green, professor emerita at Western Kentucky University School of Nursing and Allied Health
  • Dave Morris, Frankfort, Deputy Executive Director, Office of Agricultural Marketing, Kentucky Department of Agriculture
  • Babette Overman, Lancaster, Raising Hope program coordinator
  • Savannah Robin, Lexington, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture lecturer
  • Marcie Timmerman, Lexington, Mental Health America of Kentucky Executive Director
  • Jessica Wilkerson, Lancaster, farmer and attorney

The council will help direct Raising Hope’s goals as a program moving forward. They will serve a two-year term.

More information about the program, including where to find mental health resources, can be found online.

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Shepherd joined WEKU in June 2023 as a staff reporter. He most recently worked for West Virginia Public Broadcasting as General Assignment Reporter. In that role, he collected interviews and captured photos in the northern region of West Virginia. Shepherd holds a master’s degree in Digital Marketing Communication and a bachelor’s in music from West Virginia University.
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