It’s the last day of April in 2020, and we are waiting to learn what will become of our society. Will the economy recover? Will we have a Farmers Market this summer? Will the lockdown (quarantine) be lifted? What will become of it all? Everyone wants to know how our society will change as a result of the Coronavirus.
From our perspective at Peeper Pond Farm, little has changed. We do our daily chores as we did before the Coronavirus. We have started planting our vegetable garden for the spring. I’ve started mowing the yards for the season. We still attend church services on Sundays at the Dorcus Baptist Church. Barb continues making her quilt products from her sewing room, although her products expanded to include face masks which she donates to local hospital and heath care workers. She has made a total of 50 or more over the past six weeks or so. For us, life goes on.
The only significant changes we experience occur to us when we travel into town or do our weekly shopping. It is then that we notice how significantly the rest of our society has changed, as we pass by closed businesses, long lines at drive-through windows, and empty grocery store shelves. We also notice the significant decrease in traffic on the highways. We see people wearing face masks and rubber gloves in public—although not to the same degree in our area as we encounter in Harrisonburg, VA.
Our state was fortunate to be the last state in the union to record its first confirmed case of Coronavirus. While the news media acknowledged that fact (one of the good things about West Virginia), they tried to dismiss us as not doing enough testing. However, we maintained that select status for four consecutive days and the level of testing was proportionately (based on total population) the same as it was in Virginia–which had many cases before we recorded our first. Even now, months into the pandemic, West Virginia has one of, if not the, least number of confirmed cases in the Eastern U.S.
To me, the most compelling reason why we (and other similarly rural states in the West) had such low infection and death rates is because we have a very low population density and a larger percentage of our population lives self-reliantly. We also don’t have a lot of traffic exchange from outside of the state. In fact (as if to confirm my theory), those communities in our state that DO have a lot of interstate traffic exchange (Morgantown, the Eastern Panhandle, and the northern Panhandle) were the first areas of our state to record Coronavirus infections. It is the rural nature of our lives and state that keeps us in good company with other rural states, like Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota. Perhaps people should consider those lifestyle virtues and benefits when they compare the quality of our lives with those of the urban-dwellers in New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago.
As I noted above, we still don’t know if our Farmers Market will open this year and, if so, how the rules will change. That latter issue concerns me. We were asked at the outset of the lockdown if we would agree to participate in a “virtual farmers market.” Some of our newer vendors wanted to join forces with other Eastern WV Farmers Markets in Keyser, Franklin, and Hardy County to list our products on a Facebook page which shoppers could select from on-line and we could appear together at the Farmers Market site for one hour of pick-up and pay drive-through service. Whether or not we would be paid is the biggest concern we have about this system. If the shopper does not “purchase” their goods up front, we have no guaranty of a sale on the designated pick-up date. That would result in harvested food not being claimed and going to waste. However, many of our typical Farmers Market customer purchases are “impulse buys,” which we would lose if customers have to buy what they want up front. With our relatively small garden (we are not a commercial grower), we also have difficulties knowing how much of any particular vegetable we will be able to pick for sale at the Farmers Market, so we may not be able to fill a consumer’s advance purchase.
The biggest concern we have about a social media-driven “virtual Farmers Market” is the loss of interaction with our customers. We typically spend more than 75% of our Farmers Market appearance time just talking with our customers, whether or not a sale is made. That opportunity for meaningful social interaction is one of the biggest attractions for our customers, too. We give people gardening and food preservation advice and answer questions about our products. But, most of all, we just catch up on our lives or solve the world’s pressing problems, which our politicians never fix. ALL of that meaningful interaction would be lost with the proposed “virtual Farmers Market” and that constitutes at least 75% of the fun we gain from participating. Those reasons form the basis of our objection to the proposed change. Once we agree to it, we’ll never gain all those intrinsic benefits back. In our society, you can never take back a new convenience, once it has been unleashed.
It is changes like this that concern me most about how our society will change as a result of the Coronavirus. We simply fail to think about the sacrifices we must concede in the zeal to change how our society functions. Most often, it is the “old ways” and “old values” that suffer most from them. Regardless of what the powerful people decide, you can rest assured that we will strive to preserve our most sacred and traditional lifestyle practices and values. That’s the core of our mission here at Peeper Pond Farm. How much of the life you enjoy are you willing to sacrifice for a virus that may never (and most likely will never) go away?