Your Farm's Greatest Asset

Written By: Leah Chester-Davis, Robin Tutor-Marcom, Scott Lee

When it comes to considering your farm’s assets, what often makes the list are items such as the number of cattle, acres of tilled land, bushels of stored grain, number of poultry houses, and equipment.

All items are important but what’s missing from this list of assets?


Farmers are usually diligent in caring for their animals and their crops, but they often do so at the peril of their own health. The 24/7 nature of farming, the day in, day out pressures of unpredictable weather and markets, the loss of contracts such as those the state’s dairy farmers are experiencing, the effects of tariffs, and now the introduction of nuisance lawsuits against the pork industry all add up to a pressure cooker situation, says Robin Tutor-Marcom, director of the N.C. Agromedicine Institute at East Carolina University.

“It’s the cumulative effect that I think we are dealing with that we haven’t had before,” says Tutor-Marcom. In a recent study the Institute conducted with farmers in the eastern part of the state, two-thirds of them have high blood pressure, even those as young as 21 years old.

Because farm stress can seem overwhelming, Tutor-Marcom says the Institute staff is working with farmers and farm families to offer specific strategies and tools to help equip them with better-coping skills that contribute to greater well-being.

The Institute offers a number of programs conducted by individuals who have an understanding of the farm culture. Each staff member is from a farm family and understands how intertwined farming is with a way of life.

The N.C. Agromedicine Institute is a partnership with East Carolina University, N.C. State University, and N.C. A&T State University; it’s the only program of its kind in North Carolina and the Mid-Atlantic region.

“Our goal,” says Tutor-Marcom, “is to reduce injury and illness. Our role is very different. Most people involved in agriculture work in production, ensuring that is successful. Our focus is on the people. People drive agriculture and too often we overlook health, whether it’s physical health, or the emotional and spiritual well-being of folks.”

The Institute conducts research that leads to practical solutions and it offers educational programs across the state.  It works directly with individuals or groups who may be employed by or related to farming, fishing or forestry industries.

This is part 1 in a 5-part series. In part 2 of “Your Farm’s Greatest Asset,” read about the Institute’s wide-ranging programs, from how to properly use a respirator, to grain bin safety, to proper response if first on the scene of an accident, to guidelines on reducing stress, to health assessments such as blood pressure and diabetes monitoring.