Farming During a Pandemic

Thoughts & Perspectives from the Field

By Asher Wright

As the majority of people on the planet are staying at home or away from each other in a hopeful effort to prevent a worst-case scenario with COVID-19, farmers everywhere continue to move forward.

Calves are being born, soil is being prepared and planted, livestock are being fed, forage is being harvested; the wheels of agriculture must continue to spin in order to feed humanity and nourish the people of the world.

This isn’t the first time in history that our lives have been disrupted by a global-scale disaster, and this also isn’t the first time that farmers have had to rise to the occasion and continue to do what needs to be done to feed people. Fortunately for the world, farmers are a resilient, hardy, and creative bunch of people ready to rise to any challenge. It’s what we do.

Even on the best of days, farming brings uncertainty and all farmers deal with adversity on a regular basis. Whether it’s a busted water line, drought, equipment breakdown, or market failure, farmers everywhere are ready to adapt and do what’s necessary to get the crop in and to the people that need it. Farmers greet adversity with confidence every day and continue to produce results.

For the first time in a long time in the U.S. we are witnessing this first-hand, especially on a local and regional level. Local farmers are continuing to supply consumers with food where large-scale, centralized supply chains cannot deliver. This is because industrial farming relies on over-complex systems with many weak points that collapse in times of crisis. Local food works!

pigs in mud

Farming during the pandemic has strengthened my perspective on this and afforded me a world-view that shows how strong and resilient local food systems really are. For years our industry has talked-the-talk, and COVID-19 has given us the chance to walk-the-walk and prove that what we have been saying is true.

What I mean by this is, modern local food systems have never had the opportunity to demonstrate their true resilience in the United States. Our current post-WW2 food system has not been compromised to the point that it left empty shelves on a national level since the ‘re-birth’ of local food, with the back to the land movement of the 1970’s. 

For me, seeing how local and regional food supply chains have delivered amongst the chaos is perhaps one of the most redeeming and hopeful components to this whole mess we’re in.

People are still eating, we’re still farming, and things must continue from a caloric intake perspective. Regardless of the way the future looks, we know there will be one. So what now?

asher wright standing in field with cows

It is my hope that the global human community will begin to work together to change the way we do things on all fronts, primarily human health and prevention, ecosystem health, and economic health.

Over the last month I have had the ability to think a lot while working. I have been continually asking myself, “How can I be a part of this solution? What is tangible and realistic?” I wish I had all of the answers. I don’t. But I do know this, I’m going to try my hardest to find them and collaborate with like minded humans on the same path.

As time goes on, we have realized that the industrial, centralized food system is not working. The movement has already begun to build more regional, self-reliant food systems; the cultural revolution that is the local food movement is growing like wildfire.

I have truly appreciated this graph being circulated at this time and agree wholeheartedly. We need to flatten more than just the COVID-19 curve if we want to stick around as a civilization. 

Farmers, agriculture, and food systems are at the core of the solution, amidst the hard work, innovative ideas, and diligent efforts of our farmers. By managing land, animals, and soil, farmers manage the microbial and fungal systems that can both give and take life. By nurturing those systems with care, we can restore balance to the land.

It is important for land management systems in charge of our soil ecosystems to think about the whole picture. Whole-system thinking is beneficial within both federal and local governments. When holistic decision making happens, positive results and long-term solutions emerge. This is true for everything from healthcare systems to land management.

I believe many of humanity’s current struggles are related to our climate crisis and the current pace of our global society; COVID-19 is a mere symptom of an imbalance in the global system. It’s time to reign things in and work together to find solutions.

Asher Wright stands in field with cows

For me, hope lies in every corner of this challenge we are in now: hope to change, hope to improve, and hope to come out on the other side of this better. We can do this.

Queen Elizabeth recently said in her speech to England “…I hope in the years to come, everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge…” and though speaking about Britons, she challenges us all by saying that we have the potential here to be just as strong as any generation that came before us.

After all, who doesn’t like a good challenge?