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Cattle at Sunrise


MPB screens MSU miniseries ‘On the Farm’
Mr. Robert Nathan Gregory, MSU Extension Service

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- For Nathan Casburn, the land that has been in his family since the early 1900s is now more than simply his workplace.
The Tallahatchie County farm is a place of healing from an opioid addiction that began with pain medication prescribed after he was in a car accident during high school.
Casburn explained in a miniseries titled “On the Farm” that one of the biggest hurdles in his recovery was “saying I can’t do this on my own, and I need help with this.”
“That is the most terrifying, difficult thing to do,” he said, “but once you get past that, and … you’ve made that transition, you can pretty much do anything, including getting clean and staying that way.”
He is one of four agricultural producers profiled for “On the Farm,” which will be featured on Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s TV channel June 6 at 9 p.m., June 9 at 2 p.m. and June 19 at 1 p.m. In addition to featuring the growers’ stories, the film highlights resources and organizations that can assist farmers in crisis. The film was produced by the University Television Center at Mississippi State University.
Woven into each story are experts in agricultural economics, family science and clinical psychology from the MSU Extension Service who connect the lived experiences of the farmers to the scientific literature on rural and agricultural lifestyles. MSU Extension specialists featured in the film include family life specialist Alisha Hardman and agricultural economists Devon Meadowcroft and Jeff Johnson. Michael Nadorff, a clinical psychologist at MSU, is also interviewed.
“As symbols of independence and the rewards of hard work, few things are more American than the family farm, but family-owned farms in the U.S. have been struggling to survive, and farmers are just as much at risk,” said David Buys, MSU Extension health specialist. “Farmers have experienced high suicide rates, addiction, depression and stress-related illness, all made worse because the problems often remain hidden.
“Our goal in producing this film is that viewers more confidently know that, while life is difficult for farmers, there is hope for recovery from the hard times,” he added, “and I hope the film helps persuade growers to acknowledge mental health issues they may face and not ignore them.”
Other farmers profiled in “On the Farm” include Edward Jenkins, who grows row crops in Grace, Mississippi, and hopes to hand the farm down to his son and nephew; Will Gilmer, who is transitioning his Sulligent, Alabama, dairy farm to a beef cattle farm; and Steven Sanford, who grows row crops and raises cattle on his family farm in Collins, Mississippi.
A crash on a rural road while hauling equipment sidelined Sanford with serious injuries, forcing family, friends and neighbors to pick up the slack as he recovered.
The MSU Extension Service offers mental health education through the PROMISE Initiative -- an acronym for “PReventing Opioid Misuse In the SouthEast.” MSU Extension launched this program after receiving funding in 2017 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture to address mental health and prescription opioid misuse. 
Buys and his collaborators will complete a discussion guide and evaluation that complement the film and can be used at film screenings in the community.
“It’s not enough to just raise awareness on the issue,” Buys said. “As Extension specialists, we are compelled to help Mississippians move to understanding and take action to address these challenges in their own community. Hosting community conversations after viewing the film together can facilitate that additional learning and action.” 
In addition to its premiere on MPB, the film and accompanying resources are also available online at

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