Farming still has to go on, even with COVID-19 looming

Through wars, the Dust Bowl, and every natural disaster Mother Nature has up her sleeves, farmers find a way to plant seeds or market their livestock. The acts of farming go on, even in the midst of a global pandemic like COVID-19.

And while it’s true that by our very nature out here in rural America we are already “social distancing” whether we want to or not, we can’t afford to ignore that the novel coronavirus may very well come to our doorsteps. Whether people fleeing to vacation homes in rural communities bring it along with them, or rural citizens bring it home after a trip to town for supplies, it’s only a matter of time until COVID-19 affects us directly or indirectly.

We’re about to start fieldwork to plant summer crops. That means a lot of contact points with seed and input deliveries, trips to town for supplies, and long sleep-deprived days that can compromise immune systems. Do you have plans in place to protect you, your family and your farm employees from contracting the virus during this vital part of the season? Do you have masks, gloves, sanitizing products and procedures and training in place to use them correctly? Who on your team is designated to be a public contact so that you limit how many people circulate in the community? Talk to a county health professional about your plans and seek advice from them about what steps you might take to protect your family and staff.

Now, maybe the unthinkable happens and a family member contracts it, and now you have weeks of hospital visits and quarantine facing you. Maybe a vital employee or his or her family is confirmed positive and has to isolate from the workplace until the danger of transmission is through. What are your plans to keep the farm going if COVID-19 comes to your doorstep?

Now is the time to have daily farm chore procedures lined out on paper and share that with the family and staff on the farm. Map out what seeds are going in which fields and your planting plan on paper,so that if your neighbors can help you get your crop in the field they have an action plan to work off of and not just some vague notion. What are your irrigation schedules? Who are your farm advisors and what are their contact numbers? When were you going to take those calves to market and what was the breakeven price you were aiming for? How do you set up your equipment so that the technology captures the data you need?

In short, if you were unable to be part of the operation tomorrow, what do the people you leave behind absolutely need to know to keep it going?

We here at High Plains Journal are doing our best to plan for the safety of employees and continuity of business. Employees have been working from home, continuing to answer customer questions and put out the weekly paper. We know that our paper in your mailbox is a small tidbit of normal in this otherwise very abnormal situation. And even though an organization like ours plans for every contingency, no one had “global pandemic” on the list. We understand that many of you are in the same boat.

Look, this situation may very well play out and rural America may not feel a physical punch like the large urban centers are facing right now in their emergency rooms. And I think we all pray that turns out to be the situation.

But, as someone brought up the other day, there is a real chance that someone you know succumbs to COVID-19. A chance that long-term hospital stays are going to divert time from farming to time spent in hospitals. A chance that our communities will have to mourn members taken too soon, leaving grieving farm families to face farm chores and operations without a clue. Yes, even out here in the boonies, miles from the next person.

So it’s better to have a plan and not need it, than it is to need a plan and not have it.

That’s how farming goes on, even in the face of COVID-19.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].