Can Rural Revitalization Be a Benefit From COVID-19?

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Man sitting on hay baleThere doesn’t appear to be any segment of our society that has been left untouched by COVID-19. Since COVID-19 emerged in March, many sectors of the US farm and food system were obliged to rapidly pivot operations in order to remain viable enterprises. Labor intensive food production required significant interventions to ensure food safety, while row crop agriculture appeared less affected. Markets were affected by the changes in eating habits, with many more families eating at home. Everyone was asking, how long will this be the new normal?

Businesses across the globe embraced remote digital work arrangements and this might be critically important to rural america as internet access continues to penetrate unserved areas. Dr. Mike Walden, Distinguished Professor and Extension Economist at North Carolina State University, shared his perspective on this aspect of COVID-19’s beneficial effects in a recent CALS news item entitled “You Decide: Will We Return to Farm Life?” In this article, Dr. Walden wistfully reminisces about his youth on a small Southwest Ohio hog farm and suggests opportunities will only increase for all types of workers to work remotely via the internet from their home farm! If that statement intrigues you, be sure to read the whole article.

Even before the COVID-19 era, reports indicated great opportunities for revitalizing rural communities through remote working scenarios. But it is very clear that COVID-19 proved the time could be *NOW * instead of five to ten years in the future. In farm business, we encourage building resilience through multiple marketing plans. As you consider your agricultural enterprises into the future, take the time to consider the items raised by Dr. Walden as you build in decision points that acknowledge the inevitable growth in the remote digital workforce.

Farmers always consider last year’s production to plan farm decisions for the coming year. That sense of always looking forward to better times is the best example the farming community can share with the rest of American society during these challenging times.