Forty Acres Deep and Farmer’s Mental Health

NOTE FROM MIKE: “Since the publication of Forty Acres Deep–the story of a farmer struggling to hang on–I’ve been asked to speak for several farming/agriculture/rural life conventions and events as part of a growing awareness of mental health needs in these areas. I’m not an expert in this regard. Just a writer who was raised in–and still travels in–these circles. Although I include humor in my talks (as you’d expect from a guy who supplements his kids’ college fund by selling “Never Stand Behind A Sneezing Cow” T-shirts), the material from the book itself is unsparing. I don’t avoid that. And I also remember, as I look out toward the audience, that my book is fiction. Their experience is not.”

Mike will be discussing these issues as well as the inspiration for the novella and his decision to self-publish it as part of the Morrill Lecture series at the Octagon Barn on Tuesday July 18, 2023 at 6:30 PM. The evening will include a panel of farmers, moderated by Joy Kirkpatrick, responding to the story and sharing their experiences about what it means to farm today. The event is free. Details available here.

Quotes from readers/listeners of Forty Acres Deep:

The opening chapter of this book hits you like a 300-pound defensive lineman. A literary decleater. If you grew up on a farm in west-central Wisconsin, you’ll feel it even more.
– reader Isaac

Even though it’s fiction it’s spot on and almost too real…I told a pastor friend this morning to read it as a means to help better understand some of the rural folks he’s trying to minister to…I’ve had to work through a lot and war against the desire to bury it all. I say all this not as a means of looking for sympathy but as an encouragement to keep shining a light on these things. There’s not a lot of people that can communicate these hard issues in a practical means…
– reader “N” (rural ag business owner)

This mighty little book is deep & heavy. It’s a fast read, but you’ll probably need to pause & mull a poignant truth, consider an all-too-familiar pattern… Read it, but warn your heart first – especially if you know rural life, isolation, or depression…I finished the book about a week ago & it took me this long to talk about it outside of my family & the few farmers that I know have read it. Consider this a hearty endorsement & that “big sign” you needed to pop this little novel to the top of your bedside reading pile.
– Reader “X”

Your book dredged up a lot of sleeping anger and angst and things I can’t explain. But it was a great book. A great read. And I thank you for this… This book also opened my eyes to the pain of others…I hope it makes me a better person for having read it. A kinder, gentler person. Someone who can reach out to someone in real life and make a difference.
– Reader Gwen

This book really helped me through some “stuff” in a way that no other book (or person) has. It’s nice to know that Harold is out there and that more than one of us has this sort of thought process.
– portion of handwritten note from reader

I literally have had the instinct to and want to screenshot like every page, every paragraph and send it to someone in my family “This! This!” I wanna say to them… I’ve started over again like 3 times cause I want to memorize every word and phrase and someday be able to say to a friend or politician or coworker or city muckity-muck or family member who pretends to not know or ignores things or doesn’t speak about shut but feels it all deeply… I want to be able to say to them exactly how I feel and have felt about farm life then versus now and how it’s effected my life in every waking moment, from how I eat to how I work… This is a book I wish all of us who struggle with putting these experiences and feelings into words and conversations could read.
– reader F

The book.

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