It says something when a year matches or even tops the challenges of 2019. This year already has turned out to be a wild one, with many states having issued stay-in-place orders or implemented social distancing and self-quarantining guidelines for residents — in many cases allowing no more than 10 people to gather in one place at once, and requiring them to stay at least 6 feet apart.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, my colleagues and I have written several articles about maintaining some kind of routine while social distancing, and the benefit this has for our overall mental health.
This may include anything from dressing as you normally would when going to the office, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, and getting exercise and being outdoors — while maintaining social distancing guidelines, of course.
For those of us lucky enough to be involved in agriculture in any way, spring always brings a sense of hope with the promise of a new cropping season, and with it, a sense of renewed normalcy. That is, regardless of what's going on in the world, crops have to be planted.
And while, at least initially, there were concerns over potential disruptions in ag input supply chains, this fortunately hasn't proven to be a big issue in Nebraska, as many cooperatives were stocked in winter and spring before the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the state.
As I'm writing this, it's late April, and while I certainly hope things will be well on their way to returning to normal by the time this hits print in late May or early June, the factors affecting the outcome are well outside of my control.
In a similar manner, many factors in agriculture are outside the control of farmers, and last year's extreme weather and flooding are a prime example. However, this year's weather has, at least so far, been much more favorable for producers — with the exception of 6 or 7 inches of snow that fell in mid-April.
In many parts of the state, many growers were over halfway finished planting corn by the end of April, and I've heard several reports from across the state that this year's planting conditions are better than growers have seen in several years.
Farmers and ranchers have some other factors working for them. Their work, by default, gives them a routine and takes them outdoors. And social distancing guidelines aren't a problem for most producers, many of whom work in a relatively isolated setting.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the tough agricultural economy that producers are dealing with right now. It's not hard to see that COVID-19's impact on one segment of the economy — i.e., energy — has a ripple effect on others, including agriculture.
With that said, it's somewhat refreshing to remember that whatever may be happening in the world, crops still need to be planted, and people still need to eat. No one can say for sure how this growing season will shape up, but planting season and overall favorable planting conditions bring a glimmer of hope and renewed sense of normalcy in an otherwise abnormal year.