Ag Aware: Farming in the Midst of Chaos
By the time we turn the page to April, it is high time that the last gasps of winter are behind us. March is always a torment; some nice sunny days mixed in between cold, windy, snowy days. We had all that. Now it should be time to get early garden and yard activities into gear. Grass and fields should be greening up and maybe some early field cultivation will begin. Take in the aroma of freshly tilled dirt! All or most beef calves should be born by now and the spring chicks will be arriving soon. All things being equal, life on farms follow a “circle of life” pattern pretty consistent from year to year. Food production is a constant event.
This year is different. We have some unforeseen chaos happening. The COVID-19 virus. As I write this article, in mid-March, it is very hard to say where things will be at as we move on into April and beyond. So many things are changing so quickly from day to day. I will hazard a few thoughts and opinions.
For the most part, farmers of all types really won’t have much choice but to carry on as close to normal as possible. Livestock cannot be “turned off” or canceled. They still need to be fed and cared for; every day. Perennial field crops and fruit will still grow and need the usual attention. Annual field crops will still get seeded, as will greenhouse crops. Dairy cows still need to be milked daily. I envision “self-isolation” days being spent in the cab of a tractor in the field, just like every other spring. Most farms are family farms, so there is not a large workforce to take our place if we do succumb to this disease. That could be a disaster for some. Hopefully this virus doesn’t last too long, or inflict too much human suffering, especially locally. That may be wishful thinking. We truly are encountering something totally new so it is difficult to imagine how bad things may get. At a minimum, I would expect interruptions in supply chains for machinery parts or crop inputs. Exports of some agricultural commodities may be more vulnerable to lost sales, transportation blockages and closed borders. This could take considerable time to recover from.
Food security may actually become an issue for some people. Did you know that 65% of BC’s produce comes from California? So if this virus hits that area extra hard, the growing, harvesting, packaging, transportation and distribution of that huge amount of produce could greatly affect the supply available to consumers in our province. If ever there was a time to “know your farmer”, this may well be it! We are fortunate in our area that we have many local farmers that can and do grow a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, meat, milk and other food products. Supporting our local growers also supports our community. Also, if you have the space, consider growing some of your own food if you haven’t done so before. Hopefully our awesome Farmers’ Market will be able to get up and running again before too long.
Spring is upon us, so in spite of the current issues affecting our world, make time to get outside, get some fresh air and soak up some sunshine. Take a good look around at all the good things going on around us too and know that we do live in a pretty good place. Help one another through the difficult times and continue to be Ag Aware.