Folks who work in the fields, pastures, forests, and ocean space across our state are used to comparing year over year what is within the normal range of their operation by a variety of markers.
Buds pushing out on fruit trees, heavy rain or lack thereof, bloom and pollination, pests or disease, and of course, harvest start and finish all are indicators of the next thing to come, an indication of external and uncontrollable factors or simply useful for future decision making. Some farmers or ranchers note these transitions mentally, others jot them down in a notebook, and plenty more use technology to track key data points along the way, relying on historical weather, yields, and more to help them make improvements for the next season. These markers are even used just for posterity and reminiscing on the good and bad from every year as a farmer, rancher, forester, or fisher.
Given the past year, it seems everyone — whether in agriculture or not— is reflecting on their pre-pandemic lasts. Photo memories timestamp the last year, like empty grocery store shelves or the run on toilet paper that have inevitably popped up on your newsfeed.
While it can feel that so much has changed in the past year, including the food supply chain adjusting to newly-needed distribution channels, one thing has remained — Oregonians producing the food, fiber, and materials we use every day.
After a year of canceled events and modified work for many, it’s obvious why all the people along Oregon’s food and shelter supply chains were considered essential. They may have had to adapt how the work gets done in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but at the end of the day, the cows still need to be milked, plants keep growing, and from farmworker to truck driver to grocery store clerk, essential industries worked to ensure we all had what we needed.
Farmers, ranchers, fishers, and foresters are never working for a thank you, but one year into a global pandemic feels like a good time to recognize all the parts of our day enabled by the people working on farms, ranches, boats, and in the forests around our state.
These are the folks to thank for the milk with breakfast cereal, the paper napkin used with lunch, and the burger or fish sticks for dinner. Every day, there are so many reminders of what agriculture and forestry enable use to do. These items and habits are essential parts of our day, and we’re all part of a symbiotic relationship, playing a vital role in the success and sustainability of our family farms, ranches, fisheries, and forests.
For many – in agriculture or not – the pandemic shined a light on our subconscious habits we may have taken for granted or decided to change. Maybe new normals were established like routines and more time with children at home or to yourself with less social events to attend. As we work toward another harvest season, let’s think about the chance we have to establish new normals of gratitude, of reaching out, of growing new skills no matter how old or established we feel.
It takes great energy and fortitude to embrace change, especially when we don’t have total control. Lucky for us, the adaptability inherent in Oregon agriculture means that we are in this for the long haul and ready to face anything–especially together.