By Jeremy C. Nagel
Show of hands: Who’s tired of all the new phrases the coronavirus pandemic has added to our lexicon? Flatten the curve… Social distancing… We’re all in this together… Herd immunity… Uncertain times… Murder hornets…
The one that really gets under my skin is new normal. It just grates on me for some reason, even though it nails the fact that, like it or not, some everyday components of our lives are forever changed. Accepting that reality means tinkering with our own longstanding practices and preferences.
The first discussion topic I offered on the topic already seems naively short-sighted. That was back in March, when COVID first arrived in Michigan and we thought it’d blow over in a couple months. Now we know this will be a long haul — a classic marathon-not-a-sprint situation — and as we shed expired short-term fixes, we realize more permanent changes are the wiser investment.
The pandemic is now messing with some long-sacred cows, like annual meetings. By the time you read this, county Farm Bureau annual meetings already will be underway (the first was in mid-July.) Many others are scrambling to find venues that can better accommodate social distancing.
True to form, county Farm Bureaus are getting creative, planning drive-through and mail-in annual meetings to get the job done. Young Farmer programs are scrambling to reconfigure district-level discussion meets to narrow that field in time for state-level competition at MFB’s 2020 Annual. But don’t ask me what that state annual will look like because I sure don’t know.
It all brings to mind another phrase I’ve never much cared for: sea change. Dating back to the early 1600s (Shakespeare), its original meaning was literal: a change wrought by the sea. That meaning never really caught on (tough luck, Bill), but subsequent writers bent it into the figurative meaning still in use today: a change so monumental and far-reaching that things may never be the same again.
For an organization based on the fundamental strength and power of interpersonal relationships, that’s a little scary. In recent months our members have risen to the challenge of conducting Farm Bureau’s business remotely and have so far managed to do without most of the face-to-face interaction we all know is the best way to handle most things.
But how long can we keep that up? We’ve seen states “reopening” for economic reasons suffer rising COVID rates as a result. And we’ve seen hastily resumed social gathering — whether in college town bars or on inland lake sandbars — result in COVID hot spots.
Agriculture is vital to the local, state, national and global economies. And while the work of it may strike some as the ultimate in social distancing, the industry relies heavily on interpersonal networking for sharing news and ideas, and on social gatherings to maintain the strength and integrity of its fabric.
How much more distance can farming and farmers bear?
MFB Member Communication Specialist Jeremy C. Nagel edits several Farm Bureau member publications, including Farm Gate, Presidents’ Advisor and this CAG newsletter. Reach him at 517-323-6585 or [email protected].