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TAKE IT SERIOUSLY: Let’s face it. COVID-19 will be hanging over everything we do this growing season. So be careful, and take this seriously.

I was wrong. COVID-19 is serious business

Agriculture isn’t insulated from the effects of this crisis.

Growing season is right around the corner, or it might be here already for some farmers.

In a typical year, this is an exciting time. Farmers are eager to get out and put the previous year behind them. It’s the start of a new journey and a chance to do things bigger and better.

But this isn’t a typical year. Everything we do, every person we visit, every place we go, we’ll be thinking about COVID-19. It’s like a dark cloud hanging over everything right now.

I couldn’t believe it at first. I, like most people, started hearing the news of a novel new virus out of China and just thought to myself, “Nothing will happen here. We’ll be fine. Nothing to worry about.” Yes, it spread fast, but most people weren’t dying from it. I wasn’t worried.

Then, cases started appearing in the U.S. People started dying in a nursing home in Washington state. I wasn’t surprised; I expected it. The experts told us that older people with underlying health conditions were most at risk. So, I wasn’t afraid. I told myself, “This is the media’s fault. It’s getting overblown. Nothing is going to happen.”

Be cautious; it’s serious

My wife, who works in a hospital, urged me to stay home and cut back on trips. I didn’t buy it, though. I was convinced that all of this was just overblown and that it was going to pass.

Well, I was wrong. I admit it. This isn’t going away. I told my kids the other night that they’ll remember this when they’re older — kind of like when they ask me about 9/11 and if I remember that day. This will be an event that will forever be etched in their memories, just like 9/11 is for me. This is their 9/11.

What changed my mind? Everything. Stock markets crashing, sports leagues canceling their seasons, universities going online only. I’m an eternal optimist, but at this point it’s time to admit it: This is serious business, and we all need to start paying attention.

I’m still convinced that it’s a little overblown. I was at dinner the other night celebrating my mother-in-law’s birthday when I saw a headline on the television: “Coronavirus chaos!” Headlines like this don’t help anyone. They just work to get eyes on the screen for higher ratings. In a situation like this, it’s getting people scared.

Think carefully about actions

I tend to think that we in agriculture are insulated from many things, but this isn’t one of them. We all bear a responsibility to do our part to stop this virus from spreading, and to help each other out. That means following basic sanitation rules — wash your hands, cover your cough — cutting back on travel, staying home if you’re sick and, most importantly, being there for your family.

We can’t just stop planting crops or milking the cows. That work must continue. But we need to be thinking about whether it’s worth holding fairs, FFA conventions and other large-scale gatherings this spring and summer. I know a lot of planning goes into these events and that they’re important for our future ag leaders, but we can’t risk putting them in danger. Hopefully by this time in June we’ll be past this, but I’m not so sure. This virus is spreading too fast.

Listen, everyone is a little nervous. I’m a little nervous, you’re probably a little nervous. It’s a scary time. Let’s all take this time to take a little breather, assess our lives, be there for our families and be there for each other.  

 

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