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April 3, 2020
I, like most of my farmer-readers, work from home. I have since 1990. And while my work involves a lot of keyboard and phone time, it also did involve travel. As I write this, I’m “homebound,” working on my social distancing and hoping COVID-19 will be over by the time planting ends and before wheat harvest begins.
Individually, all our lives can be disrupted for one event or another — a sickness, a death, an injury. But the collective challenge of a global pandemic is different. It’s like all of us have experienced a death in the family, even though many of you may be just fine. You’re doing the spring work and aiming to finish up planting as soon as the weather allows.
Yet, like me working at home, things are different. We seek humor, and thankfully, memes and Twitter have delivered in many ways.
We seek solace in contact with friends, though that might be from 6 feet. It might be over a computer screen. And as this plays out in 2020, we’ll see where it goes.
Yet we’re survivors in agriculture. We had a depression in the mid-1980s, and the rest of America missed it. When the economy tanked in 2008, agriculture soldiered on. We’ve seen prices nosedive before, but we know they recover. That’s why we save for a rainy day, we keep cash on hand and we watch for ways to maximize resources.
There’s no way to know how society will change in the coming months. Colleges and universities may find that students like distance learning. Online shopping may be even more accepted, including grocery delivery. Heck, we might even get better broadband in the country.
But moving forward, we will be different. Changed again by forces beyond our control. Hopefully, we can reconnect in groups again by later this summer.
But this is different. We can’t gather at the coffee shop, or local bar (honestly) to swap stories on each other and have a laugh. We don’t have that handshake, on which agricultural trust has always relied. The loss of contact will be bigger than many think.
Farmers were already dealing with wide-ranging depression after many years of being socked by poor prices. As the crisis abates, the Chinese start buying and consumers seek to replenish empty freezers, we will see the demand curve change. Yet it’s that lack of contact I wonder about.
No, agriculture isn't a touchy-feely business — I’ll leave that to Hollywood producers. But we are “people” people; we interact, do business and run our farms with the help of others. That contact may be lost and compounded with depression, and that’s a scary thing.
Do yourself a favor. Talk to people. Share a story. And if you’re feeling depressed, call someone. You have a friend you can reach out to. Don’t be afraid to talk to your spouse. They know how you feel and they’re there for you.
It's fine to admit fear of failure, fear of life, feelings that you can’t go on. That’s when you need to realize you do matter to people, even if you have to stand 6 feet from them.
Keep that in mind — and if you have dastardly feelings about yourself, reach out. The people around you want to help, but they can’t read your mind. Time to talk. Be safe.
Willie Vogt has been covering agricultural technology for more than 40 years, with most of that time as editorial director for Farm Progress. He is passionate about helping farmers better understand how technology can help them succeed, when appropriately applied.
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