Meet the Board - Lesley Kelly
1. Introduce yourself! Who are you and what do you do?
I'm a wife, mother to 2 little carpet farmers, marketing professional, farmer and I'm passionate about agriculture and people. I started a blog, "High Heels and Canola Fields" in hopes to dispel myths and bring consumers and farmers together. A couple years later, I joined What The Farm podcast as a co-host which explores various topics in food and farming through real life conversations. I farm with my husband, parents and brother on a grain farm in Saskatchewan. In my spare time, I like to run after my kids, talk long walks on country roads, take pictures and write stories, try new recipes, have girl nights in and occasionally run if I've ate too many cupcakes and chips.
2. What originally sparked your interest in being an advocate for mental health?
I never had set plans on being an advocate for mental health until I saw those close to me and myself suffer in silence. I didn't know much about mental health or mental illness until I experienced a mental illness firsthand and after talking to others and reading, I found out that there is a lot of misunderstandings, misconceptions, and stigma about mental health, which creates that silence. I want to change how we view mental health as a weakness. I now view mental health just as important as my physical health. I'm a mental health advocate because we can't afford to be silent anymore and breaking that silence and having a voice can make a positive difference in others lives, especially when they need it the most.
3. Why is mental health important to you?
Mental health is near and dear to my heart I've seen firsthand how mental illness can take someone's sparkle away in their eyes, but I've also seen how it can bring people closer together and thrive. Over the years, our family has come to realize that a successful harvest hinges on our general well-being and how making mental health a priority can help the farm and our family is so many positive ways.
After my husband and I shared a video of our mental health journey's, the reception afterwards was nothing we had ever anticipated. The flood of emails, calls, messages, texts of people sharing their stories with us, asking questions about how to take care of their mental health, and the hope it gave others to ask for help or talk about mental health was very humbling. That was the lightbulb moment for us. We knew then how important these conversations can be and how much of a positive difference it can have on others.
4. What gives you the most hope for the landscape of mental health in agriculture?
When Matt and I shared our video a couple years ago, there was a big part of us that was scared. Scared of what people would think, say about us, and if it would impact our farm. But then we thought those feelings were because of the stigma and barriers. Those scared and nervous feelings quickly turned to hope, encouragement and love after we shared the video. Over the past few years, we've seen the same happen to others within the industry who have shared their stories publicly. It gives me great hope that conversations about mental health are now happening at most agriculture events across Canada, at board room tables, with employees at the farm and with the family at the kitchen table. It's inspiring to see how so many in the industry: Companies, farmers, associations and many more are part of the conversation and helping each other. We've made huge strides and that will help the industry as we continue to create more awareness and resources for the future.
5. What does being a board member with The Do More Agriculture Foundation mean to you?
The ag industry is such an amazing industry to be part of and it's because of the people. There are people in our industry that are struggling right now and we have to take care of each other. The industry has given me so much to be thankful and grateful for, from the great people you meet that teach you something new and different, to new technology and innovations that have helped shaped our farm, to the friendships and community that have helped support my small town and family. Do More Ag is one way that I can help give back to the industry in a much needed way where I feel I can help make a positive difference and hope that that difference can be life changing for a few.
6. If you could share one message with someone struggling, what would it be?
Your struggles do not define you. I know that it might be hard but I hope that you can find the strength within yourself to go and tell somebody that can help you through this. You matter, you are important, you are loved and you are not alone.