By Tim Kalinowski
There’s nothing like a crisis to help anyone re-evaluate what’s important, says Nichole Neubauer of Neubauer farms based in Cypress County.
“In a way, as a farmer I feel really fortunate in the wake of everything going on, all the chaos, that’s it is very grounding I get to go every day and do meaningful work,” she says. “Whether it is saving calves from frigid temperatures or putting out bedding and feeding the cows, it is that normalcy of my everyday routine that gives me some solitude and peace in this time of uncertainty.”
COVID-19 or no COVID-19, the work of the farm must be done, says Neubauer, who is in the midst of a busy calving season.
“As a parent with kids home from school, and even my husband exploring the possibility of working from home, all of our normal routines and schedules are really gone for all intents and purposes,” she states.
“However, when you look at things from the agriculture perspective right now, right now we are in the middle of our calving season. Cows only know their gestational clock, and they start calving regardless of what is going on in the world.”
People are also worried about food security, Neubauer says. The empty grocery shelves of recent weeks point to the vital role of the entire Canadian food system in helping us live “normal” lives here in Canada.
“Right now the food system is front and centre in peoples’ minds,” she confirms. “We see empty shelves in grocery stores; something we have never seen before. And in times of scarcity people are very fearful about how we are going to provide for ourselves. How are we going to provide for our family. The food system is incredibly intricate.
“As a farmer, I am maybe stage one of a very complicated industry that is interconnected and intertwined. But, in spite of everything going on, this year’s crop will go in the ground. This year’s calves will still go out in the pastures and be raised by their mommas.
“People need to see things still go on, and as a farmer I provide an essential service.”
Farmers and beef producers understand their vital role in the food chain, says Neubauer, and she hopes that’s one worry she and others in the agriculture industry can do to take one worry off peoples’ shoulders.
“Our Canadian food system is second to none in the world,” she says. “It is incredibly safe and incredibly reliable. Our supply chain is in good shape, and with all of the things people need to worry about right now they shouldn’t be spending their time wondering if they are going to be able to locate food for their next meal.
“We are working hard as farmers in the background to make sure that happens, and I just want to encourage people to spend time with family and friends and use this as an opportunity to reconnect and establish a good understanding of what matters most in life.”
One lesson Neubauer herself has relearned in recent weeks while attending to newborn calves out at her family’s isolated 110-year-old home quarter near Walsh is how little one needs to lead a decent life.
“There’s no indoor plumbing right now because of the sub-zero temperatures, and it’s always an outhouse for certain business,” she says with a laugh.
“But what I realized being out there with lots of time to think on my own is really just how little we actually need to survive. We have become accustomed as a society to confusing our needs and wants, but sometimes it is just the simplest things in life like a warm cup of coffee and dry gloves that make all the difference.”
She hopes people will take that message to heart in this time of difficulties, and rethink their priorities. She is using social media to spread that message and to encourage her followers to that as a farmer she is on the job to help keep the essential food supply chain rolling along.
“I think we can get really swept up in the fear and negative pieces of what is going on, and we are so vulnerable right now as a population,” she says. “We have really taken a second chance to do an inventory of what really matters. And to me, what matters most is faith, family, friends and food.”