Meat+Poultry - January 2021 - 30

COVER STORY

Monica Kramer McConkey
specializes in providing
counseling and teaching
coping skills to people
in the agriculture sector
struggling with issues
like stress, anxiety
and depression.

MEAT+ POULTRY | 01.21 | www.meatpoultry.com

PANDEMIC PANIC
Soon after launching the first phase of Maple
Leaf's initiative, COVID-19 engulfed the
world, which required Neufeld to modify the
company's mental health initiatives.
" What we recognized very quickly is
everybody was actually at risk of having
acute problems, " he said. " And so, we had to
jump and pivot to [focusing on] wellness and
prevention and do it really quickly. "
McCain realized the importance of
developing that program rapidly and
challenged Neufeld to launch it within a
week for both salaried and hourly employees.
A week later, a series of expert speakers
were scheduled to discuss for 15 minutes,
topics such as depression, isolation or how
to deal with the stress of COVID-19 and how
it impacted employees and their families. A
question-and-answer discussion followed each
regularly scheduled, virtual presentation.
The simple format of the initiative, which
is referred to as " You are not Alone, " was a
hit with employees, Neufeld said, and what
was planned to be a 10-part series had grown
to 17 as of this past December with plans of
continuing it.
In the coming year, the company plans
include training about 40 people outside of HR
to become " Mental Health Champions, " as part
of a partnership with Queens University.
" I think people feel like there's now a
culture where this is more accessible to be
yourself, " Neufeld said.

COMPASSION FATIGUE
The concept of compassion fatigue, and the
effects of it, has long been a condition health
care workers more commonly struggled with.
But according to Monica Kramer McConkey, a
rural mental health specialist whose Eyes on
the Horizon Consulting company works with
the Minnesota Ag Centers of Excellence and
Farm Bureau Business Management, this has
become more common among farmers and
ranchers. Unchecked, this can lead to chronic
stress and have negative physical and mental
health consequences.
In general, it is experienced by those
helping people or animals in distress; it's an
extreme state of tension and preoccupation
with the suffering of those being helped. It can
create a secondary traumatic stress for the

Eyes on the Horizon Consulting

30

the courage to approach him
about an issue.
" They're not coming to
me for me to talk, " he said,
" they're coming to me because
they trust me, and they want
someone to listen. I'm not
a trained counselor by any
means, so my role is listening
and providing the resources. "
Sometimes the work itself
can be a trigger for a mental
health event. In cases when an
animal or a group of animals
becomes ill, sometimes
livestock workers in the barns
have to make the difficult
decision to euthanize them or work with a
veterinarian to put down unhealthy animals.
" For our team members whose job is to
care for those animals, that's a tough, tough
event, " Sawatzky said.
When euthanizing related to an animal
disease is necessary at any of Maple Leaf's
farms, which occurred as recently as 2019
when there was an outbreak of Porcine
Epidemic Diarrhea, the company enlists a
specialty team to perform the euthanasia so
the teams working on the farms raising the pigs
don't have to be a part of the procedure.
That is something the company does for
mental health reasons, Sawatzky said.
Sawatzky also holds bi-weekly townhall
meetings with his entire business unit,
intended to address uncertainties employees
might have about their jobs and their personal
safety, especially since the pandemic began.
It has been through interactions like these
that Maple Leaf workers learn more about the
implementation of worker safety protocols,
which include screening of all employees
before they enter the workplace and asking
them to take their own temperatures
before commuting to work. Maple Leaf has
implemented a series of on-farm programs
to ensure worker safety specific to COVID19, providing those employees with the
peace of mind that their risks at work have
been minimized.
" There have been many comments from
our team members saying how they felt
safer to be at work than away from work, "
Sawatzky said.


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Meat+Poultry - January 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Meat+Poultry - January 2021

Meat+Poultry - January 2021 - 1
Meat+Poultry - January 2021 - 1
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Meat+Poultry - January 2021 - vdg - 1
Meat+Poultry - January 2021 - vdg - 2
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Meat+Poultry - January 2021 - marel - 1
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