Finding silver linings in the virus crisis

Remember when we could gather in groups of more than 10, worship in a church sanctuary, send our kids to school, attend concerts and conferences, watch sports, shop for groceries without wearing a mask, and have dinner in a restaurant? You know, way back in March? Yeah, those were great times.

During the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our way of life in ways no one could have foreseen. It’s been called a black swan event, something com­pletely unpredictable, unexpected and out of our control. To stop the spread of the virus, entire industries have shut down as much of the nation practices social distancing.

But not agriculture. Farmers can’t stay home. And neither can busi­nesses that serve them.

Mother Nature doesn’t care about pandemics. Spring arrived mostly on schedule, regardless of what was happening around us. The virus crisis has certainly caused turmoil in the agricultural industry, but that didn’t stop producers from doing what they do best. Just like every spring, they’re putting in tireless hours to produce safe, healthy, affordable food that will restock grocery store shelves, produce bins and meat and dairy cases.

Because those producers need supplies to put in crops and care for livestock, MFA hasn’t stopped, either. Just like our customers, MFA employees are deemed “essential,” so they’ve been on the front lines, helping to provide the products, services and information needed during what is typically the busiest time of year for agriculture. You’ll read more about MFA’s response to COVID-19 from CEO Ernie Verslues later in this issue.

Speaking of this issue, putting Today’s Farmer together during this extraordinary time was most assuredly challenging. But that’s nothing compared to the hardships many folks are experiencing. We’re all weathering the same storm, but we’re not all in the same boat. I read that analogy in an opinion piece recently, and it’s the perfect way to describe the situation.

While my family’s routines have been disrupted, we’re adjusting as well as can be expected. We’ve been forced to slow down our admittedly too-hectic schedule. We’ve had to take a more active role in our children’s education. We’ve gotten things done around our house and property that had never reached the top of the to-do list. We’re spending less money on gas and more money on groceries for home-cooked meals.

However, I know other lives have been turned upside down in the COVID-19 climate. Many families have lost jobs and income. Some farmers have seen their markets dry up. Small-business owners may have to close forever. High school seniors are missing once-in-a-life­time events such as proms and grad­uations. People have faced serious sickness and death from the virus.

I personally don’t know anyone who has contracted COVID-19, but my sister is a nurse in Tennessee, and I worry about her safety on the job. I’m grateful for her and all the medical personnel who are not only tending to virus victims but also other patients who need care. I’m thankful for those working to keep critical businesses, services and infrastructure running. I’ve also seen great stories of neighbors and com­munities working together to help one another through this crisis.

Like you, I am praying for a swift end to this pandemic. To say it’s a strange time is an understatement. Humans aren’t cut out to be quar­antined. We’re social creatures by nature. I was heartbroken to cancel plans to travel to Tennessee to spend Easter with my family. I hate that our kids are missing their baseball season, ballet recitals and taekwon­do tournaments, and I sympathize with high school seniors such as my cousin, Katherine, who won’t have a graduation ceremony. I can’t wait to go to the store—any store— mask-free without worrying about staying 6 feet from fellow shoppers. I’m longing to have a nice, sit-down meal in a restaurant. And I will welcome the opportunity to offer a warm handshake the next time I visit a farm to do a story.

I’d taken those things for granted in the past. I won’t anymore. This situation has profoundly changed my perspective. How about you? What will you appreciate just a little more when the pandemic subsides? I hope you take time to reflect on what really matters, such as health, family and faith. If you’re looking for a silver lining, maybe that’s it.

I have no idea when life can get back to normal, but I’m confident that it will—even if that’s some yet-unknown “new normal.” When we get past this bizarre chapter in our lives, I truly believe we’ll all be better on the other side.

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