Across the country, as more states invoke a shelter-in-place order, millions of Americans are either forced to work from home or, sadly, have lost their jobs entirely. Office buildings are empty, parking lots are sparse, and the processes of many industries have been turned upside down. But even in these times of uncertainty, workers in the agriculture industry have been working diligently to ensure stocked produce sections, rich butcher counters, and at least part of the anxieties felt across the country are quelled.
We are a drone software company that has long helped farmers keep track of their assets, monitor plant health, and improve their overall operations. But if you’ve come to this piece to learn more about drone technology, in full and immediate disclosure, that is not this article’s purpose. Because we at DroneDeploy believe, during this pandemic, every business, company, employee, and person should be obliged to shed light on the good that still resonates even in times as trying as this.
So, today, we’re casting a spotlight on a new kind of first-responder: the humble farmer.
An adage DroneDeploy’s CCO, Jono Millin, frequently shares is, “Everything we interact with daily, was either mined or farmed.” It’s true: from tomatoes for jarred marinara to building materials for skyscrapers, it all came from a farm or a mine. And, yet, many times, farmers and growers are undervalued or are taken for granted. This is disheartening, as farmers and growers are the reasons we have plentiful fruit stands and vibrant and bountiful produce sections. They produce things beyond fruits and vegetables, too, including soy, wheat, and dairy.
Therefore, during this crisis, it is unsurprising states have deemed farmers and growers “essential workers.”
The agriculture industry, though, has not been immune to COVID-19’s impact. There has been a steep decline in commodity prices, a sharp reduction in restaurant and school lunch demand, an increase in ethanol plant closures, and a reduction in direct-to-consumer sales. Panic has also set in about shortages at grocery stores, market closures, and the suspension of farmer’s markets.
On the flip side of things, compared to the same week in 2019, US sales of dried beans grew 37%, rice 25%, and pasta 10% – all products produced from materials grown and harvested. It’s a strange and frustrating time, but farmers are adjusting to the shift in demand, working to ensure shelves do not go empty while simultaneously pivoting with the decline in commodity prices. Quite simply, the resolve of farmers and growers has been dazzling.
As one BBC article pointed out, what a crisis like COVID-19 “reveals about the food system, more so than its weak points, is actually its flexibility and strength under pressure.” And driving that strength and flexibility has been the steadfast work of farmers and growers everywhere. Daily, these workers put their health and safety at risk, all to ensure operations are running smoothly while feeding the American people.
In response to the crisis, the American Farm Bureau Federation President, Zippy Duvall, had this to say, “For farmers and ranchers our calling hasn’t changed: we are committed to rising every day to grow the food we all depend on.” Instances such as this remind us more than ever the importance of food security. He added, “We want to assure Americans that agriculture remains on call 24/7. I am reminded of and grateful for the tireless hours farmers and ranchers put in all year long to supply healthy, affordable food to be processed and packaged so stores can restock shelves, produce bins, and meat and dairy cases.”
Farmers enrich the world through their labor. So, on this Friday, we salute them and their determined efforts to meet the changing demands of our country. Working tirelessly, through all hours of the day, risking their health in the fields and on ranches, has made the farmer today’s first responder – and for that, we thank them.
If you'd like to learn more about drone use in agriculture, download our eBook on drone data solutions in farming.