As 2020 draws to a close, it is a good time to reflect on the past year.
The social, economic, physical and emotional impacts of the pandemic is staggering. So many lives have been lost and so many other lives have been seriously disrupted. This has been a collective journey into uncharted waters. We’re all in this together, but inevitably some sectors have fared better than others.
Here on the farm, we have been very fortunate to have experienced little negative impact on our market gardening and native plant nursery business. Working in the outdoors is the safest place to keep busy during a pandemic. Social distancing with customers has not been an issue as orders were filled and picked up with minimal contact. Though market was closed until July, customers either came out to the farm or to a location in Trenton to pick up orders. There are so many options for keeping a business like ours going when we have the luxury of internet, email, cell phones and social media.
This year has seen many get back to basics. People are seeing their yards in a whole new way. When parks were closed and conservation areas were overrun with visitors, yards offered natural spaces on our doorsteps. People saw potential for food gardens and wildflower gardens for pollinators.
Our native plant nursery had record wildflower sales. This was all very timely with the provincial announcements of impending cuts to environmental programs, including tree planting, protection for endangered species, and sensitive lands. This is a reminder that we can’t rely on government to take a leadership role in environmental protection. The most powerful change comes from the grassroots.
We heard stories of people planting food gardens for the first time, raising chickens and naturalizing areas in their yards. All of this can only have long term positive impact on sense of connectedness and overall well-being. A lockdown has forced many of us to find projects and purpose in our own spaces. Growing our own food, baking bread and cooking from scratch became a way to pass the time while putting good food on the table. These important skills can now be honed and passed on to future generations.
It has been a year of learning the value of community and building alliances that enable us to live or do our job more effectively. For us it involved working with other family members to provide organically grown vegetable and herb plants for our gardens and for customers who wanted to start their own. By the beginning of March, we were able to offer half flats of salad plants to those who wanted to grow and harvest their own greens. The half flats were a great hit as the plants could be divided and continue to produce fresh greens for the table well into May.
Later in the season, we bought surplus organically grown produce from family members to supplement ours to meet customer demand. Before freeze-up, we moved cold hardy vegetable and herb plants from our gardens into spaces available in our coldframe greenhouse beds so that they would be available to us throughout the winter and as fresh produce to our customers in early spring.
Throughout this past year we have learned that we each have a role in ensuring the well-being of the whole, whether it’s wearing masks and practicing social distancing, providing essential services, and/or providing support to family members and others in need. Mutual support is vital during rough times.
The overwhelming response to the end of 2020 is “good riddance to a bad year!” Unfortunately, this way of thinking implies that nothing has been learned as we’ve focused on the “light at the end of the tunnel”. Perhaps, a better perspective is one of gratitude for what we’ve learned. Moving forward, we have a lot of new skills and fresh perspectives to draw on. Hopefully, stronger communities of people looking out for each other will be well established before our next challenge strikes.