It has been nearly three weeks since the world has stood within six feet of a stranger without noticing, didn’t feel a little awkward about buying toilet paper even if they were running low, and has dipped into their favorite co-worker’s office with a gift of a fresh cup of Starbucks to kick off a normal day at the office.
It’s times like this when most can’t help but feel a little desperate, vulnerable and quite frankly, like sitting ducks. We are depending on experts who train their whole lives for a moment like this to guide us in the right direction.
There is a group of experts that, for the most part, you won’t find in a lab coat and a face mask: American farmers. Rather, they will be wearing denim and a broken-in button down. This group of people doesn’t worry as much about keeping their hands away from their face because producers are covered in dirt, oil and whatever else needed tending to from that day.
Often, farmers can feel a constant struggle of being told how to do their jobs by those who have never seen a farm or visited with a farmer firsthand. As consumers seek sustainable and healthy food options, it can be confusing for those removed from the farm to see how conventional agriculture can and is producing food that is healthy and sustainable for them. This has created a balancing act for farmers to find a happy medium of caring for land, farm businesses and crops while combating unsustainable activist efforts has added a whole new challenge for the 21st century farmer .
It would be easy for farmers to give up the struggle and find an average nine-to-five – if they did not already have one on top of the farm. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that if they and their fellow farmers walked away, the grocery store and economy would look similar to what it does right now – all the time. There would be no guaranteed diapers for babies, food on shelves and fuel in tanks.
Like a caring parent, a farmer shows up when it matters – no matter how many times we push them away, disregard their experience and knowledge, and forget our dependence on them for our basics.
While most of the world is hunkered down, finding new grooves, routines and a feeling of “normal” despite what feels like the world stopping in its tracks, farmers have kicked into overdrive. They know what we’ll need come fall is the foundation of our food, fuel and fabric supply – the fruits of the seeds they sow now.
Recent weeks on the farm have seen farmers stock piling a different set of necessities. Growers are gathering pre-emergence, seed, fertilizer, fuel, bolts, belts and alternators to have ready for one of the most instrumental times of the year: Planting season.
As long as people have eaten, farmers have been working from home during this time of the year. Every day, just like they always do, farmers climb in their isolation chamber of a tractor cab, tend to their giant petri dish of a farm, and protect their crops and our food supply with technology that hinders damage from pests and diseases.
Consumers have been unintentionally slowly social distancing themselves from their food source more and more every year. It takes a catastrophe like COVID-19 to realize how dependent the world is on agriculture. This pandemic has caused consumers to worry less about labels like organic and non-GMO and worry more about finding any product at all. We have forgotten that the same food farmers are putting on your plate comes from the same crop they put on their own.
It has taken a state of emergency to realize that at the bottom line, farmers and consumers want the same thing: a safe, affordable and abundant food supply that’s the quality Americans appreciate.
Spending this time away from your normal is a great opportunity to follow a line back to your roots. Take this time of isolation to put yourself in a pair of muddy farmer boots. No matter the differences, it is easy to see there are consistent common values between us all. Republican or Democrat, black or white, organic or conventional, producer or consumer, this is a time where we all depend on each other to stay safe, and on our farmers to stay healthy. During this time, farmers may be the one in the field putting in the manual labor, but let us not miss this opportunity to start #GrowingTogether by staying educated, grateful and communicative.
Six feet apart might just be the closest we have felt to farmers in a long time.