Recent days on the eastern Prairies have been surreal, as beautiful blue skies and temperatures in the teens have melted snow and allowed the self-isolated masses to get outside into backyards, front steps and balconies, despite the overwhelming gloom emanating from every news broadcast and new story people can see and read.
Today, as ice pellets come chinkling down across the eastern Prairies as a heavy snowfall moves in, the weather better fits the social mood, although that’s an unfortunate aptness.
It’s a good reminder, though, that we should be thinking about the people we deal with in our daily and community lives, since we don’t know about all the stresses many might be feeling. Most farm families are in the fortunate position of having lots of land upon which to roam and lots of distance from other people, making the challenges of self-isolating easier for many to face. It’s harder in town and for those, including many farmers, who have jobs that bring them into contact with others and all the rigours of working during the time of COVID-19.
Showing up for work every day is a cause of stress for many. Think of those working in hog barns and slaughter plants, who work close by others and are having to undertake all sorts of extra protective measures. Ponder the situation of grocery store workers, who come into contact with hundreds of people every day. Have a thought for the truckers who provide much of agriculture’s backbone, hauling grain, fertilizer, pigs and cattle. A disappointing reality of this fraught time is that truckers are facing widespread obstacles to keeping themselves going on the road, with bathrooms blocked and food refused as they try to do their critical jobs upon which most of us rely. That’s a cruel reality.
Others we deal with have lost their jobs and face uncertain futures. In the face of a pandemic, that’s an extra crisis nobody needs.
And even though farming is semi-isolated from many of the pandemic’s most direct impacts, many farm families are under extra stress already. Not only are people worried about receiving crucial inputs of seed, fertilizer, fuel and other production commodities, but thousands of farm families suddenly have their kids home from school full time, with the expectations and demands of home schooling now added upon the stresses that already apply to this busy time before spring seeding. How can a farm family ensure its children aren’t falling behind their educational path? Most farmers aren’t teachers. Wrestling with poor internet service is an added challenge, with most schools trying to educate students on digital platforms. Many don’t have any “spare” time right now to educate their kids, but know they need to. It’s not an easy thing to juggle.
Anyone who has sick friends or relatives is feeling more than indirect stress. So too is it a bad time for people who can’t visit friends in hospital, parents in seniors’ homes, or even feel comfortable driving to town for groceries.
Farmers have a big job in front of them in seeding this year’s crop, which might distract some of their attention from the pandemic woes. But that intensity combined with the COVID-19 gloom might push some into levels of anxiety they will have trouble handling. Think about your farming friends and neighbours who might not be able to handle this as well as you.
If you’re in part of the Prairies that is experiencing this heavy snowfall you might have a little bit of extra time on your hands today. If you can, spend some of that time thinking about those you know who might be facing struggles they’re having trouble handling. At some point all of this will pass and this is a chance for us to help each other through.