The year 2020 sure has been a roller coaster of events and emotions, and it’s only June. When COVID-19 first started, most of our lives continued as normal. But then one day, I had to shut our office down, make arrangements for staff to work from home and come up with a plan on how we could still best serve our members.
The first couple weeks of being at home I felt like I was finally able to take a breath. Prior to all this, I had been working many hours and had been spending many evenings away from my family at meetings, so spending time with my family during the day — even though I was working — was much needed for all of us. But suddenly, like many others, I was working a full-time job, teaching my son, being a mom to a 6-year-old and an extremely active 2-year-old, and y’all, I am not going to lie, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I spent a lot of time reminding myself how blessed my husband and I were to have jobs where we could continue to work from home because many people didn’t have that luxury. It’s been tough. It’s been tough for individuals, families, industries of all types, and it has been especially tough on our communities.
Things haven’t been good in the agriculture industry for quite some time. After the 2019 planting season, or lack thereof, we were all praying for a better 2020. There have been too many years of low prices, nonexistent margins and farmers barely hanging on. Farmers are strong, dedicated, passionate, full of pride and have big hearts — at least that’s the way I see them, and I hope you do, too. But over the years, the stress of farm life for many has led to divorce, family fall outs and the loss of everything they worked so hard to cling to. Working long hours, typically alone, with so many factors that are out of our control (weather, market prices, regulations and more) can create an emotional and physical burden that takes its toll in many ways. Too many strong farmers with broad shoulders are feeling crushed by the weight of everything they have to carry.
The way we handle stress impacts all those around us, especially our families. There are many signs that someone may be experiencing chronic stress: sudden outbursts of anger or emotion, distancing from family and friends, feelings of hopelessness, use of alcohol or controlled substances, withdrawing from activities they usually enjoy, inability to concentrate, and edginess.
If any of you see signs that something is off or someone may be struggling, trust your gut and say something. Many people are struggling right now, and just asking someone how they are and if they need anything is important. But realize you may have someone’s whole world come undone in your lap. There may be tears, there may be anger and you may have no words to say in that moment — and that’s OK. Your time is more valuable than anything you could say.
We need more positivity and kindness in our world. We need grace, laughter, forgiveness and understanding. We need love. I’ve learned more about all of those things as a mother. I watch my babies everyday laugh at the most insignificant things–belly-rolling laughs that you can’t help but to join in on. When the stress of trying to be too many things and doing too many things leaves me hanging by a thread and I lose my patience too quickly and I snap at them, they teach me the value of forgiveness and grace.
Be a light in what has been a dark world. Be the rainbow on a stormy day. Be the person who lets someone know they are not alone. You will never regret being that person. If you are the person who feels alone and lost, please know that you are not alone. You are more, and that …“This Too Shall Pass.”
Submitted by Mandy Orahood, OFBF Organization Director, serving Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull County Farm Bureaus. She can be reached by email.
OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.