AN online platform that aims to improve the wellbeing of farmers and their communities is set to expand its services after securing a government grant.
The state government has provided a $200,000 grant to the site ifarmwell.com.au, a project that Dr Kate Gunn, senior research fellow in the Department of Rural Health at the University of South Australia, has created in collaboration with farmers to better wellbeing and mental health in their communities.
“I observed there was a real lack of services and a lack of understanding farmers face from health professionals that are based in the city,” Dr Gunn said.
“I wanted to develop a platform developed with farmers, for farmers, to fill that gap.
Dr Gunn grew up in an isolated rural community near Streaky Bay and understands the difficulties that farmers can face.
“This is all focused on farmers and demonstrates an understanding of their lifestyle and the challenges they face.”
The website launched in 2018 caters for farmers and associated rural workers such as agronomists, vets, animal nutritionists, bankers and rural financial counsellors.
The platform uses lay language, and features positive farming imagery and content tailored to the user and reflects the diversity of farming.
“What we found through the evaluation is that farmers consider the website acceptable and meaningful,” Dr Gunn said.
“We’ve found it’s effective at reducing their distress and the gains that they make from using the website are still there for six months after using the modules.”
The site contains five modules to work through, with the option to provide answers and information in a confidential manner to allow Dr Gunn to collate vital data, as well as an ifarmwell podcast.
Dr Gunn is looking forward to expanding the scope of the website and its features with the funding received from the state government.
“It will allow us to develop the ifarm website and add new features that we couldn’t have before,” Dr Gunn said.
They have plans to add a ‘stakeholder portal’, which will allow people like rural financial counsellors to easily refer farmers to the site.
The expansion will also add a feature that enables users to nominate a fellow farmer or mate to support someone going through the modules via coaching or check-ins.