In the past year, I may have been grounded from speaking at agricultural meetings due to the pandemic; however, Zoom meetings have continued. While it’s been great to be able to continue to share information with various commodity groups, the one thing that has lacked from a digital experience is being able to truly connect with our agricultural community.
In short, I’ve missed the networking, fellowship and exchanging of information at ideas in person at agricultural events. After all, the best conversations are had, not during the educational sessions, but in the hallways following the presentations, over lunch, after the evening auction and with morning coffees before the meetings begin again.
Without question, there has been great suffering and loss this past year. I’m mindful that the one-year mark just passed when I was in Louisiana speaking at a women in agriculture event when word hit attendees that their public schools were closing for the spring semester. Imagine trying to maintain the audience’s attention at the same time every mom in the room was receiving word that they had just become instant virtual, homeschool parents.
I wrote about that experience here, if you want to read my initial reflections of traveling in the early days of the pandemic.
Fast forward to present day, at long last, I recently had the opportunity to speak in person at the North Dakota Winter Show. While there, I shared the stage with some industry peers for a really fun question and answer panel. I also read my children’s book, “Levi’s Lost Calf” to the kids who were there to visit the petting zoo.
At the event, people gathered to enjoy the great food, great friendships and great rodeos and entertainment. Just being there was a great morale booster; you couldn’t help but be excited about the future of agriculture at the event! Overall, it was a fun weekend and a great chance to reconnect with friends in agriculture.
On the drive home, I considered how much has changed in this past year and what our industry needs in the days ahead.
I believe we need to reconnect as an agricultural community.
So many are fatigued, anxious, fearful and stressed right now. Whether it’s in response to the constant negative mainstream media headlines, dealing with the continued ramifications of lockdowns and mandates on our small businesses, or worrying about the “devil in the details” of some of these Executive Orders coming out or decisions being made by Congress, it is an uncertain and trying time for many.
What’s made worse, for many in production agriculture, this career path can be very isolating due to the remote nature of our work in rural areas. Add in extra stress and a lack of opportunities for gathering, and it’s a recipe for depression and declining mental health.
While I look forward for more scheduled in-person events in the coming months, I am mindful that right now our community needs connection. We must find creative ways to reach out and connect with our friends, peers and loved ones again. Humanity thrives on that connectivity. Being able to gather, to share ideas, to laugh and to enjoy each other’s company is a stress-reliever that allows us to recharge our batteries while also serving as a reminder that we are not alone in our struggles.
This week, you may not have anything on the calendar that allows you to meet up with friends; however, I challenge each and every one of you to reach out to a treasured person in your life whom you haven’t seen in a while. Get together for a coffee or reach out with a simple phone call. Chances are it will lift their spirits and lift yours, as well.
Our agricultural community needs to reconnect. Let's not wait another day to make it happen.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.