The American ranch is known for their determination, perseverance, and grit. It’s part of the spirit of the west, and cowboy code.
When Covid-19 hit, life changed, for every American. And while farmers and ranchers have resilience bred into their spirits for generations, the change is still noticeable and affecting rural America.
Here are the things we have noticed as Covid-19s impact on ranchers.
Agriculture: An “Essential” Business
Since agriculture is an essential business, a lot of the day to day operations on the ranch didn’t change. The cattle still have to be fed. Newborn calves have to be cared for. From that respect, really, what we do as ranchers on a daily basis hasn’t changed much at all.
Increased love of the land and outdoors
As ranchers, we have an inherent love of the land, outdoors, fresh air, and sunshine. Ranchers work from sun-up to sun-down. That was already a given. But, it seems this passion for wide open spaces has even increased during the pandemic. For those of us fortunate to have land and acreage we can retreat to, there has been a newfound level of peace, and solace found in the land. As we have had to retreat from our large gatherings, and “normal” life, many ranchers and farmers have simply just embraced the outdoors even more.
Strengthening of Family
We’ve also found our strengths in our families. Again, many farmers and ranchers are already engrained in a close-knit family relationship. Many farms are operated by family members working side by say each day, all day. In our family’s experience, with schools being closed, we took that time to spend together. The girls came with us day to day on the ranch. We were together 24 hours a day – working together on the ranch, and then spending time at home when we weren’t working.
Children’s Passion for Ranch Work Realized
What I’ve noticed is that my children’s love of ranching has ignited during the pandemic. My 9 year old, who used to just enjoy going to the ranch for a few hours a day, now wakes up at daylight to go with her dad every day. Both of our girls want to be at the ranch, and want to be working with us. Before the pandemic, they were so busy with sports, dance, school, piano lessons, etc, that they didn’t have a lot of time to just simply be “kids.”
Increased bio-security and security
Lots of ranchers have an “open door” or “open gate” policy, meaning they welcome visitors anytime. Especially purebred ranchers like us, who make their living by selling bulls to their neighbors. We especially do a tremendous amount of international business. So, in order to do our business, you have to have face to face encounters. Since Covid-19, we have stepped up our ranch’s overall security and bio-security. We have hand sanitizer, and wear masks when visitors come. We practice social distancing. We also have started keeping more details of where visitors are from, and respecting the specific country travel restrictions of the various customers who visit our ranch.
Interest in “Buy Local” or “Farm to Table” market
We have operated a farm to table beef brand since 2018, but this business sky-rocketed when the pandemic hit. Initially, I think it was due to there being a concern of limited beef supply. So, some people panicked and stocked up on beef. Then, we went through a period where some restaurants in our area weren’t able to get beef from their typical supplier, so they came to us, where in the past they had been buying from a distributor. Now, what we are seeing is that people seem to have a high level of confidence from buying direct from the rancher. This business has really increased. We ourselves have also definitely started eating at home more, and preparing more meals at home.
The Covid Cancellations
The Covid-19 cancellations have rocked people’s worlds, from weddings, funerals, graduations, and more. Ranchers are no exception to this. One of the biggest areas ranchers have been hit is the cancellation of many of our most beloved fairs and expositions. Participating in State Fairs, County Fairs, and other agricultural events like continuing education conferences and trade shows are crucial for the rancher. We participate in these fairs as a means of advertising our product and creating economic opportunities for sales. We also depend on many technical conferences and trade shows to help us stay abreast of industry trends and techniques. While there have been some virtual options for both of these, it’s not the same as being there in person.
The Mental Tolls: Fear of the Unknown
It’s a proven fact that farmers and ranchers deal with a lot of mental stress and anxiety. This has been amplified to a large degree during Covid simply for the fear of the unknown. Issues like beef processing facility shut downs due to Covid, event cancellations, and more can add up and take their mental toll. For us personally, the two things that have gotten us through so far is our relationship with Jesus Christ and our fellow spiritual friends. We have learned to lean on each other, and talk with other farmers and ranchers to support each other through times of uncertainty.
In a way, it seems weird writing this blog, because, overall, we have been so fortunate to have seen little impact due to Covid-19, especially compared to many in urban areas, or those dedicated professionals who work in health care. We just would like to take this time to thank these individuals who are daily on the front lines of Coronavirus: doctors, nurses, health care professionals, elected officials, essential workers and teachers. We are able to endure this pandemic because of your dedication to your communities and your fellow man.