Quarantine. Social Distancing. Pandemic. Unprecedented.
These are words that have risen into the top 100 of my overall vocabulary in the past few weeks. Outside of an unprecedented flood of pertinent Memes on Facebook or other social media outlets, these have been rather sobering times. I figured a little humor and a quarantine update from the family farm may give you something to smile about in the midst of your quarantine-routine.
Honestly, this has been very humbling. Farming requires teamwork, but much of the work can be done isolated. In fact, it is oftentimes a lonely calling (but rewarding—don’t mistake me). I confess that I was fairly confused and frustrated at the “big deal” prior to the mandated shelter-in-place orders. On the farm, everything just seems so distant (literally and figuratively), so it was hard to conceptualize the concept of quarantine when you live in a town with no stoplights and fewer than a thousand people. If I’m honest, I bet the population sign at city limits is exaggerated by the number of cats and dogs in town…
My wife—the prettier, smarter half of Pilot Knob Comforts—is now working remotely. And the social distancing guidelines has meant that it is now a much more time-consuming affair to get parts at Lowe’s. It took me 30 minutes to pickup a nut and bolt at the local John Deere dealership, something that formerly would have taken maybe 2 minutes tops. The real adjustment is having the kids home instead of a normal school and daycare routine. And perhaps the worry about folks I know that are higher at risk—like my diabetic brother-in-law or my mom.
One of the highest callings in life is to teach, especially your (or other folks’) children. We have always believed this and as a 5th generation farmer, I know that is one of the most important tasks in my career, teaching the next generation. So we don’t lack for passion and priority…but wow, do we lack for focus and sanity. I do believe that things are a small amount “easier” if all the children in a room are the same age, but still, it’s clear that teachers are underpaid. Our 6 year old Little Man and 2 year old Sprout are maniacal in this tiny farmhouse. Everything is loud. Nothing is organized. It is a good life, but the lesson plans for e-learning are not done as timely or as thoroughly as we would like. That said, the kids have spent plenty of time off-screen playing and on the farm with me in the shop or tractor cab, so they have been getting good stimulation without video games…
Macro-Economics…and other items way, way above my paygrade
Perhaps the craziest part of the quarantine on the farm is the “big picture.” When you raise a commodity, like yellow corn or soybeans, it is effectively a global market. That is very different than our #NoToothpicks, #AwesomePopcorn which is a niche, special product. With the former, you almost need to think about the economic funnel. At the widest part of the funnel, is the Macro-Economic events that effect the whole market. It is nuts to consider that corn and soybean prices are tethered not just to the fundamentals of supply and demand, but also the equities, stocks, energy, and consumer markets. So the rim, the edge of that funnel has lots of items that are WAY out of our control that filter down to the farm at the bottom of the funnel. We have quite a bit of uncertainty, just like everyone else. The scary thought for many farmers like us is that we had uncertainty in our individual crop markets BEFORE all this quarantining took shape…so where do we go from here? Luckily, the world still needs to eat and our products still have a market, albeit at a discount of profitable prices. But at least we are still able to work and survive.
- The boys had to take an emergency 1pm shower after a successful, intense playdate outside in the sandbox for recess. Sand was coming out of belly-buttons.
- The Little Man got to ride in 3 different semi-tractors in one day! The 2nd one broke going uphill when we were picking up fertilizer and it was perhaps the most scared I’ve ever been…but we survived and our little kindergartener walked away with one heck of a story to tell his classmates.
- Carpet farming is a serious business. I may drive a 13 ton tractor with all the precision of a surgeon, but it’s not good enough for the 6 and 2 year old’s tastes if I don’t get the 1/64 John Deere tractor—that’s less than 2” long mind you—to make the lines in the carpet straight enough.
- Everyone has enjoyed sleeping in an extra 30 minutes over the normal routine. We start work at the same time, but those 30 minutes spent getting kiddos to daycare and school have been welcome additions to our sleep intake.
Lessons Learned (so far)
- Be humble, there are lots of folks that can’t work, can’t leave their homes, and can’t interact with their peers.
- Things will get better. Even when you hear loud screaming and the accompanying finger-pointing between siblings, know that a few minutes later you’ll hear laughter followed by hugs.
- Zoom isn’t so bad. Our children may be well served to develop online habits to speak with distant family and friends even after the quarantine.
- Be flexible, both in business and family.
Our Prayer for You and Yours
Finally, we want to pray for you. We pray that the virus doesn’t hit you or your loved ones. We pray that you’re able to get back to work and start bringing income home. We pray that you’re social distancing doesn’t stop strong relationships—perhaps even strengthens them. And we pray that this passes soon.
In the meantime, may our #FamilyFarm be a small bright spot in your kitchen or Facebook feed. Let’s hope this quarantine is over soon enough!