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Extension Offers Confidential Consultations

WENATCHEE, Wash. — Farmers in Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties are eligible for free confidential consulting services to help them decide whether to continue farming, how to manage their operation better, or give it up.

If they decide to continue, consultants will help them analyze their options and develop the decision-making and planning tools needed for success. If they decide to quit farming, consultants will help them develop an exit plan that will preserve maximum equity.

Ray Faini, Washington State University’s team leader for the Farm Family Support Network in North Central Washington, said eight family consultants are receiving six days of intensive training for their role as consultants.

“The Farm Family Support Network focuses on helping farm families that are experiencing financial stress,” Faini said. “It helps them understand their situation and develop realistic survival strategies, or an exit plan that will allow them to preserve as much equity as possible if they decide to quit farming.”

Ann Diede, WSU family & consumer sciences faculty, Wenatchee, said, “Most farmers don’t realize the effect of financial stress on their families. They look at costs and returns, but fail to consider how this impacts the dynamics of relationships among their children and with their spouse.”

One goal is to help farm families realize how their decisions impact all the members of the family, and to make adjustments accordingly.

Consultations will start March 12. Faini said growers can call 1-800- 469-2981 to request services. A consultant will be assigned to their family. Through in-home visits, consultants analyze farm records, help families understand their situation and their options, and help them develop plans and connect to community resources.

Faini said the program is supported by a $100,000 grant from the USDA Risk Management Agency to WSU Cooperative Extension. The program focuses on Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties as a pilot effort and may expand to other areas of the state as funds are made available.

“Rapidly changing conditions are having profound effects on Washington’s farmers,” said Faini, who also is chair of WSU Chelan County Cooperative Extension.

“Evolving world markets, U.S. fiscal policy, overproduction and the recent collapse of the Asian economy are some of the factors forcing farm families to deal with unprecedented challenges.

“Farming has increasingly become a ‘business’ and less a ‘way of life,’ “Faini said. “Old management strategies are no longer working. Stress levels have risen dramatically. Farm families often feel paralyzed by the anxiety they feel.

“In many cases, they are not emotionally prepared to make any decisions, let alone the tough ones that may be necessary to turn things around.”

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