Farming in the time of Coronavirus

Just 12 days ago I was cross country skiing with my sister. She asked me “Do you think Mom is worried about getting sick?” I told her our mother hadn’t said anything to me, so she probably wasn’t too worried about it. That was our only mention of coronavirus in the 10+ hours we spent together that day. Now that feels like a lifetime ago.

So much has changed. We are all facing our own unique challenges, but I think it’s safe to say that all our lives are drastically different. Some of you are suddenly out of a job with no idea of when you might see a paycheck again. You could find yourself trying to do your full-time job from home while at the same time being asked to be responsible for your kids’ education–while keeping them from climbing the walls. Maybe you are living alone and facing an unknown period of isolation. Or you are a health care worker suddenly thrown into the fire. I can’t think of anybody who is living the same life they were even just a week ago.

I find myself with my own set of challenges. Wyatt and I are trying to figure out how to continue to feed our community while keeping our farm crew, our customers, and ourselves safe and healthy. And there’s the small challenge of keeping our farm financially afloat during all of this.

Kai checking the germinator

Kai is checking on seedlings in the germinator.

Many years ago, before I was farming, I worked in a lab. Not a medical lab—more of a chemistry lab. Doing lab work is all about cross-contamination. You can get false results if your sample is contaminated. Maybe you got part of one sample into another sample. Or you inadvertently contaminated your sample with something else in your lab. (There was one time when we were told not to breathe in the vicinity of the samples because the mercury in the fillings in our teeth could contaminate the samples.) I often think that this work was not good for me. I am already fastidious by nature and that work made me a bit overly concerned about cross-contamination and hygiene in general. I have to ask myself; does it really matter if I get every single molecule of soap off that pan when I’m washing it in my kitchen sink? (Relax, Amy!) Now I am very grateful for my lab experience. I see many of the areas we could all be exposed to the virus at our farm. And thinking about removing every single molecule when I am washing something seems a lot more relevant.

Some of the questions Wyatt and I are asking ourselves… How much food should we grow? How big should our farm crew be? How many CSA members can we expect to have this year? Should we grow any veggies for our restaurant customers? (Who, by the way, are all in a dire situation right now.) How can we be there for the chefs whenever the restaurants do reopen? How do we keep everyone on our farm safe? Are there any loan payments we can defer? What happens if Colorado orders us all to shelter in place? Are farms considered “essential businesses”? (I think so.) How different will the world look in just one more week? I’ve been working with our Boulder County Agricultural Extension Agent (Adrian!) to explore some of the logistics specific to our county and to Colorado. Adrian has been an invaluable resource in navigating the current situation for farms.

Katie watering

Katie is giving the onion starts a shower.

We’re busy planting and growing plenty here. There are peas, fava beans, garlic, and spinach already in the ground. And lots of things are sprouting in the greenhouse: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, chard, kale, and more than I can remember. Fortunately, a lot of our work is outside in the sunshine (and lots of naturally sanitizing UV radiation) so it makes it a bit easier than trying to keep people safe in an office. We’re doing our best to grow the right amount of food and have the right size farm crew. We’re also thinking ahead to our CSA pickups in May and how that will look. Right now, we’re thinking of pre-boxing shares or maybe having members do a drive-thru pickup. I am grateful that we have a handful of weeks to figure out the safest way to distribute food.

I take my responsibilities seriously—to provide safe food to my community and to provide a safe workplace for my employees. Wyatt and I are doing everything we can to fulfill our commitment.

Be safe.

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8 Responses to Farming in the time of Coronavirus

  1. LPC says:

    I’m gonna go ahead and calls farms about as essential as it gets. Hang tough, guys!

  2. Roger Nichols says:

    Please plant all the vegetables you can. Our world need good nutrients to help us be strong and survive this challenge!

  3. Dawn Kimble says:

    Thank you for your honesty and thoughtfulness around all this. We appreciate you!

  4. Yael says:

    I also believe that farming is essential work! And even during the floods you fed us all. I can’t imagine it’s not essential and I’m sure it will have an exception. You might want to think of making an official card for your employees and yourselves (since your farm spans more than one piece of land) and text them to your workers so they can drive to work. We’re thinking of something similar to make sure we can get people over to our goat milking shifts — letting them know only healthy people can come. I’m definitely signing up for my share! (In fact, I was just wondering about that last night!). Hopefully, we’ll be past the worst of this by the time the season starts. Stay healthy!

  5. Kristine says:

    We’re happy to be your subscribers. Let us know if you need more support from us in planning ahead to help our communities.

  6. Sheree says:

    Sounds as if you’re doing an excellent job.

  7. Adrianne says:

    Thank you for all your hard work, and for taking care around the pandemic. I worry that Farmer’s Markets may be shut down this summer. One Christmas I drove across the country to visit family. That year we had 2 major snowstorms a week for 6 weeks. The storms shut down I-70, which had the effect of concentrating traffic on days when I-70 was open. We drove all the way to St. Louis in a double line of bumper to bumper semis that carried food for the Denver metro area. Coming home it was the same story only we were going the other way. When we stopped to get groceries before the latest storm shut down the city again, the vegetable section was almost completely empty. It gave me a whole new perspective on how fragile our food supply chain is.

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