By Celeste Baumgartner
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Farm Bureau will be awarding its first-ever “Y Prize” this year. Farm life is demanding and stressful. This award will showcase the efforts of individuals across the country who are breaking the stigma of farm stress and mental health and getting the resources to farmers where and when they need them.
“That is what this prize is all about,” said Ty Higgins, farm bureau’s senior director of communications and media relations. “Finding those unique individuals and those efforts across the country that are breaking through; it’s something that we’ve talked about for years in whispers, farm stress and mental health. We’re starting to turn the volume up on that conversation and that topic and that’s where the Y Prize is going to showcase those efforts.”
The award stems from the unfortunate passing of Yvonne Lesicko, former Ohio Farm Bureau vice president of public policy who died unexpectedly in June 2020. The Yvonne Lesicko Memorial Fund was created after her passing. It is run through the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation and since last year more than 300 donors have given $80,000 to that memorial fund.
“Yvonne was unbelievable in everything that she did but she really took on the issue of farmer mental health and farm stress, Higgins said. “She helped to lead a couple of efforts through American Farm Bureau and Ohio Farm Bureau. She was instrumental in getting the “Got Your Back” farm stress coalition going which came through the Ohio Department of Agriculture.”
That’s where the Y Prize, short for the Yvonne Lesicko Perseverance Prize, is coming from, Higgins said. While not a cash award, the prize will be a recognition of the winner’s efforts and will give them a platform to amplify what they’re doing to the next level.
Those individuals and their efforts will be featured in front of Ohio Farm Bureau members. Farm Bureau will introduce them to outside media, they will be part of the Young Ag Professional Winter Leadership Experience. They will have an opportunity to talk about what they’re doing on the mental health front.
“We hope the Y Prize can provide recognition and a ‘thank you’ to groups and individuals working to advance this cause,” said Kelly Burns, executive director of the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation.
Nominations are being accepted. The deadline is July 23. Visit www.ofb.ag/yprizenomination to complete the form.