Toban Dyck: Tread the COVID-19 landscape with sensitivity

It’s a challenge to process the news and identify how our fears and prejudices influence our positions

Riding Mountain National Park in western Manitoba. (Mysticenergy/E+/Getty Images)

I check my crops nearly every morning. I didn’t do that last year or any year since I have been back on the farm. I regularly communicate with my father about what’s happening on the farm on any given day. I didn’t do that last year, either.

I have spent an unprecedented amount of time in the workshop in 2020, tinkering on motors, reading shop manuals, building things and taking Zoom calls.

Last year, my wife, Jamie, and I bought a seasonal campsite about an hour east of our farm, where we placed our fifth-wheel RV. We spent a fair bit of time there in 2019. We enjoyed the convenience.

This year, we sold the trailer and the site. We talked about it, and that was not the kind of summer we wanted to have. For myriad reasons, we now want to explore, go on adventures, be a bit uncomfortable, ride bikes, hike and be rugged. We bought a tent, put a roof rack on our vehicle and we’re now camping nearly every weekend, exploring the nooks and crannies of Manitoba.

I’m at home this year. I have been able to implement many of the practices I often thought would benefit this farm, and I’ve had the time to pursue and develop new interests.

It’s hard to unpack all the factors contributing to the changes in our lives and routines. I have never experienced a year like 2020 and I have never had to wade through and assess so much seemingly critical information as has been continually churned out since COVID-19 began spreading.

Life is fragile and short. This is a brutish thought that is hard to process if you’re blindsided by it and/or not used to working through such things.

I haven’t written much this summer. My column at the Financial Post has been reduced to once per month, the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers’ magazine, Pulse Beat, takes an editorial break during the summer months and Grainews doesn’t publish as often during the growing season, either. But I have been watching and reading what others have been saying about this year.

We need to think more intelligently about 2020. That is my conclusion, which I offer without a robust solution. Pandemics, by definition, are terrifying in much the same way thinking about death, mortality and the fragility/unnecessary nature of life is terrifying. That fear, however, seems to have prepared the groundwork for those who have a propensity to see the world in black and white to do so even more.

I’ve said this before and I will say it again: the world is not black and white. If you need it to be, I am sorry. It is not.

Commentary on COVID-19 has become an intellectual red herring, the low-hanging fruit that too many have set their gaze on and used as a convenient way to express divisive political views and, in general, harsh attitudes towards policies and retail-level decisions that now, more than ever, require sensitivity.

It’s easy to comment on things that seem simple to understand.

The challenge we all face — and the ag sector is not above this — is to process the news around us while identifying our own fears and prejudices and how they may be influencing our positions.

Working from home, working at home and having to digest the information coming down from our government, the ag industry and our friends and colleagues has pushed me into a spell of re-evaluation. And now even more so, with race talk entering the agricultural scene.

It’s not a bad thing to not know how to process all that is being tossed at us. It’s OK to be unsure. It’s OK to be cautious, and it’s always exceptional to think about things as deeply as possible.

I have no idea how COVID-19 will affect my farm. It will. There’s no doubt about that. Today, however, my crops look great and my bins from the previous year are empty.

Jamie and I are enjoying our summer of adventure, and I am already looking forward to my next crop tour.

About the author


Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]



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