I am a chef. I don’t know how to fix the economy or bring back the way of life we had before COVID-19 changed the world. All I know is the lessons that so many farmers have passed on to me throughout years. In times of selfishness, farmers are selfless. In times of fear, they persevere through community action. We are called to stay at home but we are not called to inaction.
Farmers are deemed essential workers, meaning they carry risks that many of us are afraid to endure in times of crisis. These fears are compounded by the uncertainty of not knowing when things will go back to “normal.” Here is a harsh reality check: normal as we know it is over for now.
Back in 2012, I started a company that hosts dinners on farms across New England known as The Farmers Dinner. I was tired of sourcing products from thousands of miles away while hard working farmers in my area went under the radar. Since 2012, I have spent thousands of hours on farms across New England getting to know the people in our communities who grow and raise the food we consume. I have witnessed farms struggle to find and keep customers. I have seen farmers sell the land that their families have passed down for generations just to avoid foreclosure and I have watched as they broke down in tears not knowing where the money would come from to pay their bills.
In the midst of these struggles, I have also seen triumph. Communities of chefs banding together pledging to buy from farms, pop up dinners raising funds for easement costs and so many more stories of the community supporting each other.
When the COVID-19 outbreak began and grocery stores flooded with customers looking to stockpile anything they could, farmers in New England began life as they do every March, they started getting ready for the season by getting their fields in order and planting in greenhouses.
As the country spiraled into the unknown, many people began seeking comfort by hoarding resources, but farmers started farming. As grocery stores endured the pressing burden of our fear-based shopping, farmers started farming. When shelter-in-place orders began to become the norm, farmers started farming. When masks were covering up our fears, farmers started farming. That’s what they’ve always done.