This Covid Moment. The uncertainty, the change, the fear, and the gratitude are thundering through in intense waves.  At Ag Innovations, like many of you, we have been “grounded”, working from home, working online. Can you imagine if this happened 20 years ago? 

At times like these, it is clear how fortunate we are to live in California. While Ag Innovations is based in Northern California, our staff has family across the states, and are bringing back stories of loved ones who are sheltering in place in 700 square-foot apartments in New York, or who can’t go outside due to weather; or who, like some of my own family, has just been laid off.

Here, we enjoy this fine, beautiful California spring.  It’s lucky the hardware stores are still open -people are home and planting victory gardens, and that might be a good thing as Covid-19 ripples through our food system, disrupting everything from the farms to their buyers, particularly our higher-value specialty crops, as Gail Feenstra at UC Davis notes.  Everyday, I give thanks for the people who are risking their lives to plant, harvest, and deliver our food, keep our grocery aisles stocked, our gas stations open, our mail delivered, our sick tended, our internet, electricity and water available.

As a parent, I am grateful that I can work from home, impacted but also able to continue, with more time for home- cooked dinners, spontaneous bike rides, games of tag and trampoline.  Joy and guilt are twinned, knowing that other caregivers may not have it so easy, knowing that tensions about work, income, and simmering interpersonal conflict can erupt in these conditions. I feel mixed about the screens and services we spend SO much time on, that are teaching my 6 year old piano, building, math, and bad grammar.   Really, it hasn’t been easy, but there has been so much good in this time at home for our family. Articles like this have helped, reminding us that we are all doing the best we can, and to put aside expectations.

This moment has also been humanizing for our professional world; video is now the norm for many folks we work with – a huge improvement over the non-video conference calls we were having even 6 weeks ago – and I have seen kitchens, bedrooms, children, and cats adding depth and character to the faces I see and work with often.  

As we move forward, and our planning for a resilient future continues, there are a few things that we are reminding ourselves and our partners.

Breathe. Here is Mayo Clinic’s article on breathing to reduce anxiety, and we are now starting many of our client and internal meetings with a few moments of quiet.

Forecast.  Like you, we are preparing for a bumpy ride. This article has already helped us to “buckle our seatbelts.”

Connect.  This article describes all the ways people are reaching out to protect their community.  Incredible.

Will we leapfrog?   There is a phenomenon where countries “leapfrog,” skipping infrastructure such as landlines to use only cell phones.  Likewise, I have a theory that this moment will invite communities to leapfrog and reach out; that community engagement might progress into new platforms and reach new groups who weren’t quite as accessible before.  The time is now to solve questions like rural bandwidth, connectivity, and tech access for the rural communities in the US. We will have to be creative, but we are being creative.  Ag Innovations is eager to lean into this question, as we facilitate community engagement in groundwater, fire planning, identifying alternatives to pesticides, and water infrastructure.  The work continues even from our homes, and so we must “keep calm, carry on” AND be curious – this moment will transform us, if we let it.

Our offer to you: help making the leap. Here are our top resources for hosting meetings online and our latest blog to go with it.And, if you find yourself thinking, “How the heck do I keep this collaboration or public engagement process going when I can’t see people face to face?”, and need a short call to figure out how to take your agenda or project effectively from in-person to online, call or email us – we’d be happy to give you some ideas.  We have already transitioned many of our own efforts from in-person to online, fairly seamlessly. We are all figuring this out together, and our work on water, fire, ag and food continues even as we wait this storm out. Let’s jump.

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