At the Farm GateHarvest routine brings normalcy during pandemic
I hold out hope that the upcoming harvest season delivers a 60-day dose of normalcy, seldom felt since COVID-19 changed our lives. The pandemic-friendly activity naturally isolates us to the cabs of trucks, tractors, and combines. We drive all day yet stay within a 15-mile radius of home. And as usual, our social schedule works around the priority task of harvest, an easier feat this year now that COVID-19 has cleared the calendar.
The local agriculture festival is canceled. The kids’ fall sports seasons are postponed. And the 7th grader and freshman in our household will start the school year 100% remotely, making high-speed internet and mobile hotspots a necessity.
Remote will reach another level if the kids take their studies along during harvest with me on Snakeden Road, a middle-of-nowhere gravel road as winding as its name implies.
Similarly, harvest provides a time for schooling on the farm. In fact, this season may teach us more about the production impacts of planting decisions than the last several have. The crop struggled at its start in undesirably cool soil temperatures, fitting of the mood of the COVID-19 pandemic at the time. The economic shutdowns combined with decisions about when to plant made this spring as stressful as the unprecedented planting season last year.
We need a mental reprieve, a feeling of normalcy, and objectives that we can see and achieve. Harvest season brings attainable goals we can check off field by field.
Farm families everywhere can relate to the long hours and natural isolation to gather the harvest. Together, we share satisfaction in productive harvest days and empathize with mechanical breakdowns that derail the task. We relish
October sunsets and realize that a hot meal delivered to the field satisfies more than hunger. When it rains, the day fills with maintenance jobs, bookwork, and overdue haircuts, assuming no further barber shop shutdowns.
Consistent with the encouraging messages of the pandemic, “We’re in this harvest together.” We felt that bond with fellow farm families far before COVID made the phrase popular. Harvest makes it natural to do our part to help ensure normal returns.
About the author: Joanie Stiers’ family grows corn, soybeans, and hay and raises beef cattle and backyard chickens in West-Central Illinois.