Technology and Mental Health

How lost would you feel without your smart phone?  How frustrating is it when your technology isn’t cooperating with you?  If you are anything like me, you have a love/hate relationship with technology in your daily life and the hate part occurs when I can't make it work.  At least not the way I want it to.  The same thing can likely be said about technology in agriculture.  Technology has made jobs, safer, cleaner and faster.  Technology allows farmers to meet changing production demands, both with regard to quantity and quality.  However, technology can do more than that - I want to challenge us to think about how technology can impact a farmer’s quality of life and mental health.

Last week at AgDays I had the opportunity to listen to Kim Keller as part of a series of speakers on mental health in agriculture.  She challenged us to think about how technology could be used to help producers manage one of their most precious resources – time. 

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Right now technology can do things like check the temperature and moisture of stored grain in off-site locations or allow us to look at a problem that an employee is trying to describe, both of which save time.  In the future, we might have autonomous trucks to haul our grain or self-driving tractors to help with field work.  Although these technologies all have various degrees of “cool factor” they really give us extra sets of eyes and hands, which means our eyes and hands can be freed up to do other things.  There is a great temptation to spend this “bonus time” doing more farm jobs; taking on more acres or head of cattle or doing more custom work. 

Perhaps it is time to challenge ourselves to think about how we can really use technology, and the gift of time, to invest in our own mental health.  What that looks like is different for each of us… My challenge to you today is to think about the next technology investment you are planning to make not only from an operational point of view, but also as a potential investment in positive mental health.