Sunrise over a field

Drug abuse prevention in rural America: how the Minnesota Farm Bureau is meeting the needs of farm families


By: Ruth Linkenmeyer Meirick, Director of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Foundation

Rural communities have not been immune to the impact of our nation’s opioid crisis. In fact, a survey sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union found that 74% of farmers and farm workers say they’ve been directly impacted by the opioid epidemic, yet only 1 in 3 rural adults say it would be easy to access treatment.

Rural communities face specific challenges in combatting drug abuse, from lack of prevention and treatment resources to the stigma surrounding Opioid Use Disorder (OUD).

To overcome these challenges, the Minnesota Farm Bureau is working to raise awareness about opioid misuse, create opportunities for individuals to engage in honest conversations about drug abuse and increase access to convenient drug disposal with at-home resources like Deterra® System.

Expanding access to prevention and disposal resources

In surveying rural families, we’ve found a strong majority feel that two key components of solving the opioid crisis are 1) increasing public education about prevention and treatment resources and 2) reducing the stigma around opioid dependence.

We’ve worked to increase awareness about the opioid epidemic and bring attention to prevention resources available to our rural communities in several ways:

  • Create resources. We’ve created a resource card that is adhered to a Deterra Pouch and distributed to the 78 county farm bureaus across Minnesota with helpful tips, links to online materials and ideas to help foster conversations and community awareness about opioids.
  • Offer drug disposal kits. With support from the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative (RALI), we’ve distributed nearly 25,000 Deterra Pouches. The pouches are available to county leaders so they can provide residents with discreet, at-home disposal and help educate individuals about the importance of disposal in preventing opioid misuse. Rural residents can use the pouches to safely deactivate and dispose of unused medications prescribed by their doctor and/or their animals’ veterinarian.
  • Seek out partnerships. Partnering with organizations like local law enforcement, hospice providers, pharmacies and community groups to educate families and provide prevention tools helps further our efforts and impact as many people as possible.

The 60 million Americans living in rural areas have an 87% higher chance of receiving an opioid prescription compared to those living in cities. The inconvenience of returning to the doctor for a refill or driving to a distant take-back site may prompt rural families to save their unused and expired prescriptions in case they need them later. This is why it’s critical to educate individuals on the importance of proper drug disposal and provide a solution like Deterra that offers immediate at-home drug deactivation and helps protect the water and soil that rural communities depend on.

You can read more about our Deterra distribution efforts in this case study.

The Minnesota Farm Bureau adheres a resource card with talking points and helpline information for residents to each Deterra Pouch before distributing to the community. 

Fostering a community of support to end the stigma of drug dependence

In addition to providing education and prevention resources, creating a dialogue about substance abuse, mental health and the stigma surrounding these issues is essential to fostering a supportive, resilient community for all rural families.

Opportunities include:

  • Create space for people to share their stories. Hosting meetings with residents and community leaders is a great way for people to speak about their experiences and engage in open dialogue about mental health topics including substance use.
  • Offer support and connection. Try to reach out and offer support to individuals who are struggling. Many of our daily routines are altered during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we can still support each other through calls, texts and video chats. The American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union also created an online campaign, Farm Town Strong, with information and resources about prevention, disposal and treatment providers for rural families.
  • Make sure the needs of farm families are part of the prevention conversation. Substance misuse can impact people of all ages and backgrounds, and we need to make sure we understand the unique needs of the people we serve and offer them a seat at the table when deciding on policies and issues that will shape our way forward.

Whether its in-person or online, we know that providing practical prevention resources and fostering open conversations about the opioid crisis can make a difference in the fight against drug abuse. Overcoming the epidemic in farm country requires creative strategies that meet the needs of the rural community. For farm families, increasing access to convenient drug disposal, creating opportunities to share insights, and continuing to learn from each other are all vital to keeping our communities safe, connected and drug free.


About the Author

Ruth Linkenmeyer Meirick is Director of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides opportunities for supporters of agriculture to invest in people and programs focused on supporting active farmers and agriculturalists, better connecting agriculture to consumers and serving rural communities.

Read Next

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Learn how the Minnesota Farm Bureau is raising awareness about the role unused prescription drugs play in the opioid crisis and increasing access to convenient, at-home medication disposal.


Learn how Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation prevents drug abuse in tribal communities by increasing access to prevention resources like Deterra Drug Deactivation and Disposal Pouches.


Learn how a public school district in North Carolina used Deterra Pouches to reduce the risk of drug misuse for students and their families at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.