…we’re feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have to admit, when we first started hearing news about the emerging virus, we thought we would be relatively isolated from the effects out here in the boonies. In case you’re dreaming of a simpler life in the country right about now, I’m here to report that we’re not immune to the effects (forgive the pun).
In so many ways, the world is smaller than it has ever been. No matter how isolated and self-sufficient we want to consider ourselves, our lives are very much intertwined with what is happening on the rest of our planet. The ongoing pandemic impacting human health and livelihoods across the world has brought this reality right to the surface.
For a relatively out-of-the-way ranch, we are rather cosmopolitan. Our business partners and our parents are back and forth from Washington State and Montana regularly. We host school tours, teach university students, and welcome visitors from all over the place. We also regularly attend gatherings of farmers and processors to learn and share knowledge. All of that is on pause. And it’s not just about travel to and from the ranch — an employee recently had a potential exposure locally that resulted in some paid time off while we waited for the test results (thankfully negative).
That’s not to mention, of course, our connections with all of our customers throughout the region. In order to do the work we do here on the farm, we have to create products and put them into the hands of customers who value them. All of you folks are travelling, connecting, celebrating, meeting, recreating, shaking hands, close-talking, hugging, kissing and gawdknowswadelse with a whole bunch of other folks, and they are all doing the same with their friends, family and colleagues! Or at least they were, until about a week ago. Easy to see that you don’t have to be an intrepid traveller or glamorous jetsetter to inadvertently help this virus spread around.
So, of course, this is impacting all of us now. The seriousness of the situation dawned on different people at different moments. Maybe it was seeing the maps turn from beige to orange to red. Stories coming in from other countries, including health officials warning us to prepare. Was it when Sophie tested positive, or when our Prime Minister began addressing us from self-isolation? Maybe the run on toilet paper sounded funny, but it hit you when you saw the empty grocery store shelves. Or when the first event you were looking forward to was cancelled. I won’t even mention your investments — we finally started our RRSP at the end of February. Whoops.
For all your friendly local farmers and ranchers, the future is uncertain. How will we sell our products? Will supply chain disruptions impact inputs to our operations? What do our customers want right now? We have all been talking on the phone a lot. Restaurant customers are shut down. New customers are calling and emailing. We’re trying to pivot our businesses around to meet changing demands and prepare for the unknown. There is great strength in diversity, and we are fortunate to have built diversity into our ranch, enterprises, products and marketing streams. This was not by accident, and the resiliency we have developed is serving us well now in this time of change.
We are diverse. We are resilient. We are prepared.
At the forefront right now is uncertainty around farmers’ markets. We make a large portion of our sales and meet a lot of new customers at markets. However, start dates for our local farmers’ markets are currently being postponed. It is not clear at this time if they will be allowed to operate this season, and if so, what restrictions might be in place. Some markets around the province have been cancelled, and others are currently pressing on. Even if our local markets do proceed, we fear that attendance (and sales) could be drastically lower.
We are fortunate that the online ordering & pick-up method we use during the farmers’ market off-season is aligned with all the protocols recommended to slow the spread of this virus. Meeting customers outdoors to deliver pre-packed orders with minimal physical contact required is an ideal scenario. Even better, we already have a dedicated group of customers who are willing to think outside of the (supermarket) box and go out of their way (literally) to purchase our meats. We are so grateful to every one of you. Because of you and your dedication to good, healthy food and supporting local businesses, we know we will survive this.
So, there’s a lot of uncertainty right now. What is certain is that we will continue to make our organic pastured meats and eggs available to our customers throughout the Sea-to-Sky.