By Heather Cameron
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Kori Kuryvial and Emily Freiberg are the Farm Family Outreach Team and that team oversees the Farm Family Outreach Program that was launched by Family and Community Support Services in February 2023.
“This program supports farmers, farm families, retired farmers, and agricultural employees,” Kaitlynn Weaver, Outreach Services Supervisor for FCSS Taber, said. “Our mission is to offer confidential support to farmers and their families, connect farmers to local services that will ease their farming journey, and provide resources that will enrich farm families.”
Weaver says that the Farm Family Outreach Team is raising awareness about the supports available to farmers and their families by getting involved in various FCSS programming and local community events including, Coutts Days on June 17, and a Women in Farming Conference that is being planned for the winter months.
The Farm Family Outreach Program, Weaver says, was founded because farm families have unique opportunities and challenges presented to them and as such, “standard” support programs often do not properly address their concerns or properly support them.
The Farm Family Outreach Team, Weaver says, consists of Kuryvial and Frieberg and they both have an extensive background in agriculture.
Kuryvial, the Farm Family Outreach Coordinator, has lived on a farm operation in southern Alberta for most of her adult life and more recently, her and her husband have retired from farming. Kuryvial says that she has actually been with FCSS since 2012 and started out working with seniors, and thoroughly enjoyed her role as Seniors Services Coordinator. She did take some time off for a few years in 2020 and recently returned in February 2023 when she was hired as the Farm Family Outreach Coordinator. Prior to coming to FCSS, Kuryvial says she worked within Alberta Health Services as Coordinator of Volunteer Resources for 12 years and is also an active volunteer as a facilitator and trainer for the Stanford Chronic Disease Self Management Program. She also enjoys volunteering at the Lethbridge Hospital.
“When I heard about the Farm Family Outreach Program, I was intrigued because I felt I had a bit of an understanding of life, and stressors on the farm as I have lived on our family farm for 40 years,” Kuryvial said. “The position caught my eye, plus, why wouldn’t I want to be part of an organization full of good people doing great things? Volunteerism is important to me.”
Freiberg, Weaver says, is currently farming with her family near Bow Island. Prior to being part of the Outreach Team, Frieberg says she worked at a crop inputs store, for a seed canola company, and was also currently involved in her family’s farm. Frieberg says she also has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture studies, and studied at Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge. On top of that, Freiberg says, she has volunteered in various capacities at her church, as well as at the Lethbridge Soup Kitchen, the Bow Island Play Group, and has also had the opportunity to volunteer on a fish farm in Japan and on an organic farm in Germany.
“I feel very excited about the opportunity to help farm families through the Farm Family Outreach Team and subsequently FCSS,” Frieberg said. “Having grown up on a farm and currently being involved in my family’s farm, I know that farming can be an extremely beautiful but also challenging lifestyle. My background in farming is also what created my passion for this position, and ultimately led me to apply for the job. I know that this program holds great potential to enrich farm families’ lives, and I am very thankful to be a part of this and work towards creating a better future for my family as well.”
Weaver says that to date and with the help of Kuryvial and Freiberg, the Farm Family Outreach Program has supported over 100 individuals, including farmers, farm families, and service providers who support farmers.
“One challenge that farm families may be experiencing right now is the uncertainty surrounding unprecedented heat and the potential negative implications this will have on crop yields and ultimately profits,” Weaver said. “We can offer support by having confidential conversations surrounding their concerns around stressors and by offering a listening ear regarding their concerns. Based upon the individual’s needs, we can make referrals to professionals, resources, or simply offer the opportunity to chat again.”
The individuals who have received help, Weaver says, have attended presentations put on by the Farm Family Outreach Team to learn more about farmers’ unique well-being needs and to learn about supports and resources that the team can offer.
“The Farm Family Outreach team has a variety of internal and external resources that can assist farm families through their farming journey,” Weaver said. “FCSS has many internal programs and services that farm families can access. For example, families can access free counselling if they are a resident of the Barons-Eureka-Warner FCSS service area (MD of Taber, Lethbridge County – excluding the City of Lethbridge, and the County of Warner). Families can also access parenting education and senior services internally through FCSS.”
The Farm Family Outreach program, Freiberg says, is supported by the Canadian Red Cross and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“The Farm Family Outreach Team can also connect farmers and their families to external resources that can assist them through their farming journey,” Weaver said. “This includes but is not limited to local businesses, health professionals, and succession planning resources. If we are unable to identify a resource that properly addresses a farm family’s need, we will strive to locate the best solution.”
For more information about the Farm Family Outreach Program, visit: https://fcss.ca/farm-family-outreach/.