Ranch Musings: Our mental health and well-being in these times

Columnist David Zirnhelt writes about ranching during the COVID-19 pandemic

David Zirnhelt

Observer Contributor

One of the drawbacks and advantages of being a senior during this COVID-19 crisis is that we are in the special category of vulnerable. Both my wife and I are somewhat compromised by immune system challenges.

We are treated as “vulnerable” by our family, which means continued social distancing, erring on the side of isolation. Someone shops for us, which means we are maintaining a modest store of fresh food and keeping up our normal supply levels of things like coffee, milk, fruit and veggies.

And because we are vulnerable to community transmission, we don’t want to contract the virus and then be a source of infection for our family and others nearby.

The main centre for contact with other people seems to be the grocery store. We had fuel delivered to the ranch — our spring fill up, thanks to the delivery service of the bulk plant.

We are trying to figure out if we can get seed and other supplies, such as salt and minerals, vaccines and so forth that we need for our operation.

This brings me to the challenge of figuring out just who and what in the food supply chain is covered as an essential service. When the big announcement from the federal government on essential services came, I took some comfort that our supplies and marketing channels would continue.

However, when we see the pressure on long-distance truckers — getting food and fuel when they are on the long road — and the inadvertent spread from places like the Subway fast food chain in places close to us, we wonder just how we will maintain the “essential services.”

I see a campaign on Vancouver Island where small meat producers want to have more licenses granted so they can slaughter on farm. And you see shortages of meat inspectors in some places, raising doubts about the ability of local producers to get their product certified safe.

I know our respective producer organizations are doing due diligence looking into the fine print on government regulations and announcements.

On another matter, that is, communications in this new age of doing business, the Harvard Business Review has published a free e-book on dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. It deals with how to keep your business running remotely and keeping operating through disaster and recovery.

This free book is available at the Harvard Business Review website (HBR.org). It contains 16 recent articles on this topic.

Further on this subject, they offer advice on how to connect with people in a virtual world, a world that is driven to expansion when we are physically locked down or isolated.

Nick Morgan, the author of this essay from back in 2018, outlines the five big problems with communicating in the virtual world — “lack of feedback, lack of empathy, lack of control, lack of emotion and lack of connection and commitment.” He deals with how to mitigate these problems.

I am all ears, as my experience reflects all of those problems.

A final note, those of us who lived a great part of our lives working alone and living with our families near the wilderness know the virtues and beauty of having time to enjoy where we are and not being stimulated by information overload.

But we best walk away from our devices for at least few hours a day and stay grounded.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake.

READ MORE: Ranch Musings: COVID-19 and ranching


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