We’re mere days away from 2021 – the new year is in sight. And while we’re all cautiously optimistic, us in the ag industry remember how excited we were for 2019 to be done and 2020 to arrive. Oh, what little we knew. We are fortunate though – our family started the year on the beaches of Key Largo, Fla., and are ending 2020 on the beaches of Corpus Christi, Texas. Not a bad set of bookends for an otherwise frustrating year.
In the 360-some days between, we learned a lot and came to appreciate the little things. Once the lockdowns and COVID-related measurers set in, we became even more grateful for our farm, space to roam and flexibility in work locations and schedules that many families simply did not have. Our boys have spent hundreds of hours with Derek, on the farm. As as much as it came to despise the morning Zoom chaos, I was thankful I could work from home and help the boys with school work and online classwork.
The boys have been understanding and resilient through all of it. They gladly wear masks to school (because homeschool with mom really isn’t all that fun) and just accept that life is different during a pandemic. They’ve taken advantage of semi rides with dad and time in the tractor and have become masters at logging onto Zoom.
Derek stays busy on the farm and took another step closer to his goal of having a registered cow herd business. With so much uncertainty, it certainly was not the year to start a new business, but he was able to build his herd and has hopes of making it all official soon. We saw consumers turn to local ranchers and meat processors for their beef and loved the enthusiasm for locally raised beef. I hope consumers continue to value their relationships with their local farmers and beef processors, but also understand that the guy that processes the beef at the small town processor is the same guy who makes the Whataburger meals possible. (Full disclosure: I’m writing this from the beaches of Corpus Christi, Texas, home of the very first Whataburger and yes, we’ve been there a FEW times.)
We also learned a whole lot about our supply chains. To most Americans, the empty grocery store shelves they saw in the spring was a sign that we were out of food. To the contrary, the food was there, but it wasn’t packaged, labeled and shipped to the right locations. It also taught us in agriculture that we have a long ways to go in educating consumers on “where” their food comes from and how it gets from the farm to the grocery store freezer.
My work was hectic and overwhelming at times but I was honored to be part of a U.S. Senate campaign that truly was “the little engine that could”. We finished with a double-digit victory and proved that hardwork – not money – wins campaigns. Now we move to the Senate and begin a six-year term of representing the great State of Kansas. I’m excited and a little nervous – we have big shoes to fill and are certainly enduring trying times.
There are some parts of 2020 that I hope we retain – mainly the understanding that our society relies on so many underpaid, hardworking men and women who do not get nearly the recognition they deserve. Our society needs to change who and what they hold up as “most valuable” and realize that worth to society doesn’t always require a fancy title. We will get back to “normal” in 2021 but I know it will be different than we all expect.
Life with two boys and a farmer is never boring and I expect 2021 to be full of surprises, celebrations, disappointments and adventures. My true goal is to remember our many blessings, give thanks for the little things and keep everyone happy and healthy another year.