It has been over two months since “coronavirus” and “COVID-19” entered the everyday vocabulary of many Americans. Social distancing measures have been put in place across the globe to help flatten the curve and prevent the spread of the virus. However, some essential workers — including farmers, fishermen and forest products producers — are still working hard to provide life-sustaining materials in the midst of chaos.
For many agricultural producers, this means continuing business operations with added restrictions. Kim Brayman of Fesko Dairy, LLC, in Skaneatles, N.Y., understands the struggles that producers are going through. Not only within their businesses, but with their families and personal lives as well.
“We knew social distancing had to be done,” said Kim. “But the longer this continues, the more it’s eating at us.”
Other than more employees donning face masks, smaller meeting groups and extra sanitizing stations around the farm, Kim says most of the work has been business-as-usual. But in addition to her normal day-to-day routine, she also has three young children who now need to do their schoolwork from home.
“I now find myself teaching my children — ages 11, 9 and 7 — for at least two hours every day,” said Kim. “Though it’s been nice having the kids home to provide extra sets of hands with the chores.” Kim is also thankful for weekday food deliveries from the childrens’ school.
That’s not to say the transition has been easy. “The kids really miss their grandparents and their friends, and not being able to see them is taking a toll,” said Kim.
Thankfully, Kim is no stranger to communicating via technology, as she has several friends and family members who don’t live close by. She’s familiar with using video calls, so starting a weekly video conference with her fellow farmers was a priority to stay connected during these times of social distancing.
“I meet with other farmers on Friday afternoons — we call it ‘Dairy Girl Happy Hour,’” said Kim. “It’s an opportunity for us to share experiences, questions, thoughts and ideas.”
Some members of the group have created other, similar groups too. “Think about the people you would typically hope to see at a Farm Credit East or PRO-DAIRY meeting, and invite them to a video call,” Kim said. “I cannot tell you the help and encouragement I get from talking with my dairy girls on friday. We’re all in this together.”
“We’ve been utilizing email, text messaging, social media and video calls to communicate with friends, family and customers,” Kim said. “On social media, we try to keep our posts light and funny, but still informative.” The Braymans have recently been posting recipes and articles about the benefits of consuming dairy on their personal social media pages as well.
According to Kim, one of the most disconcerting things is that the COVID-19 pandemic is uncharted territory. “There is no older generation that has experienced this to be able to ask ‘Hey, what did you do?’” she said.
However, the capability of constant communication and the knowledge that social distancing will eventually end has given the Braymans something to look forward to. When this is all over, Kim says she is going to most look forward to “being able to walk right up to someone and give them a big hug.”