Farm Life Mostly Unchanged by Virus
Apr 01, 2020 (Westby, WI)
As the world adjusts to a new set of social standards, farm life proceeds as normal for many Westby Creamery farmers – mostly.
Travis Klinkner, one of the Creamery’s farmer-owners from Genoa, Wis., said there are very few changes to his family operation right now. “We can’t shut things on and off like a factory. We run 24/7, 365 days a year, and we’re going to keep doing that,” he said.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has asked farmers and food processors to do everything in their power to stay operational by classifying such workers as “critical essential workforce.”
The only changes Klinkner has noticed is how he interacts with farm visitors like his herd nutritionist. “We’re aware of how close we are when communicating with one another,” he said, adding that he received several emails from farm suppliers who explained that company representatives will be foregoing handshakes and other social norms.
Beth Leis is another farmer-owner from Leon, Wis., but unlike Klinkner, she has had to make a few adjustments. Leis is the primary farm operator because her husband works on the road most of the time. With the closing of Wisconsin schools came a need for her to also become an educator to her three school-aged children. “The anxiety levels are over the roof,” she said, adding that her college student is now in an online learning environment as well.
“I have my morning routine of farm chores but now I have the added responsibility of making sure the kids connect with their teachers and get their assignments done,” Leis explained.
Despite this new challenge, Leis said she feels proud of her status, especially after seeing empty store shelves. “I was flabbergasted but felt so reassured that I had the means to take care of my family. We have a freezer full of meat and milk,” Leis said.
Klinkner echoed the sentiment, saying he feels blessed in this time of isolation and uncertainty. “This is where we’ve always done our work. We don’t have to worry about going someplace to take care of our duties.”
Both farmers want the public to know they will keep working, as will the team at Westby Cooperative Creamery whose production capabilities remain uninterrupted by this pandemic.
“The food supply is here and it’s safe, and farmers intend to keep working,” Klinkner said.
Leis said she hopes this shines a positive spotlight on producers – all producers. “I hope people will see we need the forester to make paper products; we need the dairy farmer for milk and cheese; and we need the grain farmer for cereal,” Leis said.
Even when the cows come home Westby farmers will keep working the farm life. “As one dairy meme pointed out, the cows will look at me as I leave the barn and say, ‘See you tomorrow,’” Klinkner said.