Florence Becot, Ph.D., an associate research scientist in Marshfield Clinic Research Institute’s National Farm Medicine Center, was awarded the Steve J. Miller Distinguished Physician/Scientist Endowment in Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety Research.

​The endowment recognizes excellence in medical research, education and clinical care and provides resources to encourage the recipient to continue their contributions to the institution. The endowment is a three-year term and is renewable for an additional three years based on meritorious accomplishment.

Becot is a rural sociologist and the endowment will allow her to continue her research, which is about understanding the factors that shape farm populations’ ability to meet their needs with an emphasis on health, safety, quality of life and economic opportunities. Becot said that this has included work exploring the availability and types of social supports, including health insurance, childcare and mental health and crisis support, as well as the role of these support systems in supporting farm households and their farm business.

”At NFMC, we are very excited to see the Miller Endowment awarded again,” said National Farm Medicine Center Director Casper “Cap" Bendixsen, Ph.D. “As a center, we continue to be grateful for the level of philanthropic support in Marshfield Clinic Health System for agricultural health and safety. Dr. Florence Becot is surely going to place that research support to great use. I’ve been very impressed with the rate and rigor of Florence’s scientific contributions, and I believe we will see her work directly impact social policy during her time as the Miller Endowed Scientist.”

Becot’s research on this topic is a continuation of her work for over a decade, but her interest in agriculture goes back to her childhood in France. She grew up listening to two sets of grandparents as well as other family members talking about both their love of farming but also the challenges they were experiencing. Much of these family reunion conversations were happening as changes brought about by the development of the European Union were bringing a lot of uncertainties about what the future of agriculture would look like. Now she has embarked on a career trying to both understand the challenges farm families face and find solutions to these challenges.

 “Farmers are on average 59 years old. Farming as an occupation is one of the most dangerous and stressful,” Becot said. “It is also one where often profit margins are tight and fluctuate from year to year. We all eat everyday but who will be growing our food in the future and under what conditions?”

These are some of the big picture questions that Becot will have in mind as she uses the Endowment to look closely at how farm families’ experiences meeting their social and economic needs and how their access to support systems interact with their strategies to take care of their health and safety. To do this research, she will focus on two big challenges farm families face – accessing affordable health insurance and childcare. Her research will not only look at the U.S., but also at farmers in other countries such as England, France or Switzerland. The idea is to understand how farm families who have access to different types of support systems fare and what we can learn from places where people have an easier time meeting their needs. For example, in places where farm families have better access to off-the-farm childcare, might there be a lower incidence of farm-related child incidents?


Endowment’s second holder

The endowment was named through a gift from Marbeth Spreyer, a Marshfield native, to Marshfield Clinic Health System and MCRI in memory of her father, Steve J. Miller, who was a cheese wholesaler in Marshfield. Spreyer worked as a U.S Department of Justice attorney and a private practice estate planning lawyer for 29 years in Arlington, Va. She also was a member of Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation and the National Labor Relations Board. 

Pathologist Thomas Fritsche, M.D., Ph.D., was the inaugural holder of the endowment from 2013 until his 2021 retirement. He remains a Research Emeritus.