She understands that deeply because she lived through a particularly painful time in 2020. The day before the world changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigg lost her family home — located on her husband’s fifth-generation farm in Sisseton, South Dakota — in a fire. Suddenly, her comfortable life selling supplemental farm insurance became strikingly uncomfortable. Her own mental health difficulties soon followed.
“Everything was closed down entirely for two weeks, and we walked away from our home with nothing. Nothing was salvageable,” Nigg said. “I went through that mental battle myself, so I could relate to that. But I wasn’t about to call a 1-800 number. That wasn’t the kind of thing I felt could help me. I wanted to look more long-term.”
She leaned into her lifelong fitness journey for support. Nigg discovered that physical fitness was a way to also keep her mental state healthy amid the stress and turmoil she was enduring. And it wasn’t long before she wanted to share that approach with others in the agriculture community using social media and, ultimately, 1-on-1 online personal training.
A planking challenge that she created in 2020 drew several hundred participants — nurturing a sense of community, fun, and healing amid the tumultuousness of the pandemic — and catapulted Nigg into creating Farm Fit Training in February 2021. It was a health-focused business that catered to the farming sector in ways none other had done before.
“To be honest, it was the path I always should have been on,” she said. “I love everything I do, and it’s cool to work with agriculture as a whole and give them a new ideal of working on their mental health.”
A few months ago, she reached out to Titan International with an offer to help bring more awareness to the bonds between physical and mental health on the farm. Statistics show that farmer suicide rates are anywhere from two- to five-times higher than the general population, and Titan’s new sponsorship of Nigg’s training programs aims to shed light on the mental health crisis within our community, utilizing Farm Fit Training health and nutrition programs as a means for helping address it.
“Agriculture is an isolating lifestyle,” said Scott Sloan, ag product manager/global LSW for Titan. “She has her own story that really connects with a lot of people, and we wanted to help promote it.”
The partners set up an engaging tire flip booth at the 2023 National Farm Machinery to connect people to the cause and promote the next challenge that Nigg has cued up: the FFTxTitan Tire Challenge, which is 30 days of interval shred workouts, needing just 15 minutes a day … no gym required.
The booth had crowds throughout the entirety of the trade show, and farmers of all stripes took on the challenge of seeing how many times they could flip the 290-pound tire in 30 seconds.
“People are telling me this is awesome. It’s something out of the norm, and helping to bring people together in ways that will ultimately impact mental health,” Nigg said.
Nothing in the fitness space uses a tire like this. And what farm doesn’t have a tire available? Nigg also encourages people to be inventive; even seed bags or feed bags can make for great workout tools.
People often think they don’t have time to do workouts, but Nigg caters her programs to the individual — everyone’s goals are unique, and everyone has a different reason for getting started. Building consistency and habit into fitness is a key to success. And Nigg says that people burn more fat in short, effective workouts, compared with long workouts, because those short workouts are more challenging and intense. You push heavier weight, she said, and there’s a lot that be accomplished in just 15 minutes.
She uses an app in her program, and she appreciates the opportunity to teach the “why” and science behind health and nutrition. To her, the education component is vital. And her training has helped participants heal in a variety of ways, such as no longer needing anti-depressant drugs.
“It’s not going to be a short fix. It’s working on yourself for the long term,” she noted. “When they go through the program, they rediscover who they are, that fire in 15- to 25-minute workouts.”
Nigg has two coaches who work with her on personal training for roughly 200 people. By early on Day 2 of the four-day National Farm Machinery Show, she said that she already had 284 people sign up for the tire challenge, well on her way to her goal of 600.
She feels this is a major step to addressing both physical and mental health in agriculture, topics that are too often difficult for folks to talk about.
And it’s important that companies such as Titan are signing on to help amplify messages of wellness. Sloan, who’s wife is in the Farm Fit Training program, summed up his impression of Nigg succinctly:
“She’s a rock star,” he said.
Ryan Tipps is the founder and managing editor of AGDAILY. The Virginia Tech graduate has covered farming since 2011, and his writing has been honored by state- and national-level agricultural organizations.