My name is Bonnie Jones and I am a 4th generation Montana rancher. I live with my family in East Helena on the ranch my great-grandfather, who at one time served as the President of Montana Farm Bureau Federation, acquired in 1936. I am so fortunate to be able to stay at home and homeschool our five children. I enjoy working alongside my husband as much as kids, school, sports, etc. allow. I’m about serving others and being involved in my community. I currently serve as President of the Helena Folkstyle Wrestling Club, Chair of Tri-Lakes Volunteer Fire Department, President of the Montana Fire Trustees Association, Vice-President of the Montana Fire Alliance, and Chair of the Lewis and Clark Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee.
While attending the Women's Leadership Committee meeting at the annual MFBF convention in Billings last November I heard about the FUSION Conference. I immediately thought it would be fun to attend, but made a tongue-in-cheek comment about how well that would go over when I ask my husband, Casey, what he thought about me leaving him with the kids in the middle of March during calving season. I heard so many good things about the conference from the women who had previously attended and decided it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Casey was completely on board.
I had a great time at FUSION. I attended a breakout session called,The Opioid Crisis in Rural America – Keeping Our Farm Families Healthy and Safe. Initially, I was not too thrilled to be sitting in on this workshop, but our county Farm Bureau has discussed this issue at our meetings so I thought I’d take one for the team and see what I could learn and take back home. Let me say, I have had little tolerance or compassion for the drug issues in our country and have perceived it as a problem that “really” doesn’t affect me and seems hopeless.
The more the presenters spoke the more I realized how much it actually affects my family, our community, and me as an individual. But I’m still thinking, “We don’t have opioids in our house in any form. My kids aren’t exposed to them at all”. Then the presenters start talking about people “sharing” a prescription medication to help the neighbor who threw out his back and can barely stand up straight, etc. “Oh!” –insert light bulb- my brain is once again realizing, I’ve heard of this very scene playing out among well-intentioned family and friends.
They continue, talking about their adopted children who were addicted to heroin at birth. Well, I’ll be; we too have adopted children. One we know for sure was directly impacted by and exposed to opioids. Our adopted son’s birth-mom, my biological cousin, passed away from complications of years of heroin abuse.
Presenters shared the following statistics:
- Doctors are now finding that it takes “three” short days to form an addiction to opioids.
- 74% of farmers and farm workers say they have been directly impacted by the opioid epidemic.
- 3 in 4 farmers say it is easy to access large amounts of opioids without a prescription.
I’m getting this resounding message that the opioid crisis is a lot closer than I have been willing to admit. It’s clear that we as community, state, and country have a big issue and we need to work together to help end the crisis.
In summary, the conference was amazing, well organized, very informative and entertaining. It gave me the ability to meet many new people and form greater relationships with those I already knew. I would highly encourage anyone to attend if ever presented with the opportunity. I hope to attend again in the future. Thank you Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Lewis and Clark County Farm Bureau, and Casey for giving me the opportunity!
The American Farm Bureau has partnered with the National Farmers Union on the Farm Town Strong project. The project aims to bring awareness to the opioid crisis plaguing rural America and provide resources to help families and individual struggling with opioid abuse.
"Together, we’ll overcome the opioid epidemic through strong farmer-to-farmer support and the resilience of our communities."