Tom Giessel in the field with combine in background

As I write this report we are in the middle of a world turned upside-down. The COVID-19 virus is just beginning to build up steam here in Kansas and deaths are happening as a result of the virus. We here in Kansas are now in a state-wide lockdown starting today. 

I won’t even pretend to know more than you do about the status of it all, I’m just another Kansas citizen, watching the chaos that is happening, so what do I write in this report? I guess just some of my thoughts and emotions…

We are inundated constantly on the news as to the latest information about the Corona virus. We are frightened. Frightened for our loved ones, for our communities, and for ourselves. We are wary of what evolves as this virus runs its course, and of what our world and lives will be like moving forward. 

And, most of all, we are grieving. 

We are grieving a lost innocence. This generation has just lost its invulnerability to a mere virus, it’s virginity to a pandemic, and it can’t comprehend that and is threatened. Previous generations have dealt with pandemics and world wars that required the entire nation to focus on the crisis and they did it. We will too. 

We are grieving because we are awakening to the realization that our lives and our communities aren’t going to be the same after the virus has run its course. Our lifestyle, our comfort zones, our coffee shops, restaurants, service industries, our churches and religions, etc. Which will survive this time of closure and how will they have evolved to do so? We have quickly adapted our lives to be able to work through the internet and physically distance ourselves from our norm, will that continue after the threat is over? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? 

We are grieving because there will be gaps in our umbrella of family and communities of some who do not survive the virus. They will be grieved. Immensely.

And now to look at what I am observing toward the positive side. 

In spite of the amusing jokes on social media about family confinement (which are pretty fun), I’m getting the impression that we are starting to realize that family time can be a really good thing. In a society where it has rapidly evolved into a me me me lifestyle and one necessarily focused on economically surviving with both spouses in the workforce that the place of “family” has taken a backseat to our fast-paced lifestyle. We are becoming aware that there are so many more areas of education for the next generation than just the classroom, we are learning that the teaching of responsibility, the learning of basic life skills, the appreciation of the wonderment of nature, and the magic of life are important. And that’s a good thing.

I am observing that we as a society are reaching out to our fellowman while at the same time physically distancing ourselves. We are caring for one another compassionately, as we have become aware that we are finite. And that’s a good thing.

I feel we are quickly becoming aware that there is a very important and basic need to have physical social interaction as a human species. We need this. In a society of increased isolation before this crisis and as community activities were becoming increasingly internet focused we have been rudely slapped in the face now that it is the only outlet for our interaction and we realize that it doesn’t fill the basic human need of a hug. And that’s a good thing. 

This supply crisis has showed the obvious vulnerability and weakness to the current food and supply system to consumers and will hopefully move the pendulum back toward a more localized food and supply system. And that’s a good thing. 

So how do we, as a Farmers Union family, help each other to survive and succeed in this crisis as our forefathers in Farmers Union did in the last pandemic? I do not have that answer. But I do know we need each other. Now more than ever. 

Together as a Farmers Union family, as a community, as a state, as a country, we are always stronger standing together than standing alone.

Donn Teske

Donn Teske was first elected president of Kansas Farmers Union in 2001 and served as National Farmers Union Vice President from 2014-2018. He owns and operates a farm near Wheaton in Pottawatomie County as a 5th generation farmer. Teske’s farm is approximately 2/3 grass and 1/3 crops. Prior to his time at KFU, Donn worked for the Kansas Rural Center and for Kansas State University Agricultural Economics Department as a farm financial analyst. He serves on the board of some twelve state, regional, and national boards concerning agriculture and the environment.

Donn Teske