When COVID-19 hit, all of a sudden, agriculture became essential to an entire civilization (a civilization that spent decades distancing itself from any remnant of the industry that has been the backbone of this country for hundreds of years). Coming from a multi-generational farm family, the irony sticks out like a newborn calf in a lush spring pasture or the first sign of this year’s corn crop peeking through the soil surface on a crisp Delta morning.
Early in 2020, the terms “essential” and “social distancing” became all too familiar to the entire world. Generations who had never done without, children who might have thought that food came from the grocery store and were more concerned with the newest social media platform were suddenly introduced to the harsh reality of what really is essential for life on earth. It is amazing how, at the drop of a hat, the definition of “daily necessities” can change.
In the blink of an eye, people began focusing on the essentials, and a world full of social butterflies had to learn how to distance themselves from society and become self-sufficient. The funny thing is, day-to-day life for American farmers and ranchers pretty much stayed the same. For generations, our farmers and ranchers have learned the hard lessons of cutting back, doing without and making difficult decisions of what is “essential” in order to continue providing the world with basic needs.
Social distancing? It may be relatively new language for the average individual, but to the American farmer and rancher, it is a way of life. One may even say rural America invented social distancing before social distancing was cool. Year after year, farmers put countless gatherings, ball games, celebrations, vacations and even trips to the barbershop on hold for the sake of providing food, fiber and shelter for a growing population.
While the rest of the world is losing their minds, worried about COVID-19 affecting their social calendar, how many birthday parties, anniversary dinners or lunch dates have taken place in the spacious cab of a combine, bringing in the crop before a hurricane hits the coast or in the barn, bottle-feeding livestock through the night? I have asked myself, what good does it do pointing this out? The answer: it has taken the wake of a worldwide pandemic for the areas of this country so far removed from agriculture to get a glimpse of the hard work, determination and sacrifice it takes to be an American farmer.
Most rural Americans have always understood that we are dependent upon agriculture for survival. However, a large portion of the population has taken the production of our basic needs for granted. The recent worldwide crisis has been a glaring reminder that the responsibility of producing food, fiber and shelter falls on the shoulders of our American farmers and ranchers. To me, it is plain and simple. Farmers and ranchers are essential – pandemic or no pandemic.
See more: Staying Safe Despite the Unpredictable
About the Author: Craig Hankins is the Regional Manager for Region 1 at the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.