December is a great time for reflecting on what the past year has brought us, and this past year has certainly brought us a lot to reflect on. Not many of us could have guessed what 2020 would bring. When everything shut down in March, a lot of us went into a kind of shock as we worked to come to terms with all the implications that a global pandemic might have on our day to day lives. Most businesses had to pivot and change the way that they worked with their customers. The demand for hand sanitizer skyrocketed and sewing became a skill that could earn a wage again as the need for masks grew. Kids had to adapt to online schooling, and parents did too. We got used to stores having varying hours, or even closing completely from day to day. To keeping our distance from people that we were used to greeting with a hug. All in all it was a very tough year for many.
As farmers, there were many things in our daily lives that did not change at all. Many already spent most of their time on the farm social distancing. Animals still needed to be fed, land needed to be seeded and fences needed to be fixed. However, those in agriculture that direct market, are public speakers, or have an extension role, saw their usual way of doing business completely change. It was a hard shift for many as we came to the realization that in person seminars, workshops and conferences just were not going to look the same this year. Throughout the summer many of us hoped for the chance to get together with friends and family. I know that a few events were able to take place, even with the ongoing restrictions in Alberta, but it all looked very different.
This has not been all bad though. Everything changing meant that our paradigms had to change as well. We discovered new ways to reach people and started making use of tools that we may have never used without a pandemic to change things up. Zoom became a household word as people that were not in the habit of using technology picked up the use of these new online tools. Online shopping became much more habitual and people started using apps in the way that previously we would have used our personal networks and newspapers.
One of the apps that has piqued my interest is Ruckify, which is an app for both renting and renting out personal items. The idea of being able to not only meet my neighbours, but make use of their cross-country skis, or their shop vac, without having to make the investment myself, is incredible. This summer Farming the Web launched as well. Replacing the government’s Ropin’ the Web listings site, Farming the Web was created to be an online marketplace made for farmers, by farmers. To have a one stop online shop for not only hay, but farm equipment, services and contracting, and even to lease or buy farmland makes for a great resource.
While the many apps and websites that are available are great, many of us have been missing the in-person networking. Before the pandemic we would meet and learn from other farmers in the hallways and at the lunch tables of conferences and seminars. This has taken a little longer for us to figure out a way around. We recently teamed up with Greener Pastures Ranching to start a weekly virtual networking session. Every Wednesday night at 6pm MST we open a Zoom channel to any and all who want to join in. Regularly Steve Kenyon will be joined by a special guest. In these sessions we chat about all manner of regenerative agricultural topics and with a very laid-back platform the Wednesday night Virtual Networking Sessions come quite close to having the after-conference networking feel. If this is something that you are interested in, joining is as simple as a quick registration on our website: www.gatewayresearch.org.
As we go into the new year, let us reflect on not just the struggles, but on the victories that have come out of a challenging 2020. People are learning to appreciate the human contact that we previously took for granted. We are learning and growing as a society, not just in the technology department, but in compassion as well. We have also learned that many of us are much stronger than we would have ever previously given ourselves credit for. We here at GRO are looking forward to a fantastic 2021 and finding new ways to connect with you all!
Gateway Research Organization