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Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel Family
Farming through the COVID-19 pandemic
Meet Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel

Around the world, farmers are doing everything they can to prevent the coronavirus crisis from becoming a hunger crisis. Industries of all kinds have been forced to rapidly change how they work, and agriculture is no different.

 

Farmers are used to adapting to circumstances, whether it’s droughts, floods, or pest infestations. Overcoming unpredictable hurdles goes with the job, but the pandemic is bringing a range of new challenges to growing the food people depend upon. These challenges make it clear that more must be done to enhance the resilience of our food system. To understand these obstacles, we spoke to farmers, growers, producers and industry figures around the world to learn how they are adapting in this unprecedented time. Read more about How Farmers Are Keeping Us Fed through the Global Crisis.

 

For millions of families around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic means home now doubles as a classroom, and for Saskatchewan farmer Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel it’s no different.

 

The Nagel family grows grains, legumes, and oilseed crops, and for her daughters, who are 13 and 11, farming is a key extracurricular activity. “One of the lessons I feel strongly about teaching our kids is the necessity and the awesomeness of global trade, especially when it comes to food,” says Nagel. “I have such a deep appreciation for the food and products that I am able to buy and have at home.” 

 

Everything that is grown on the Nagel farm is traded on the world stage and even before the effects of COVID-19 were felt on supply chains, many farmers already faced a tumultuous year in 2020. Trade wars and protectionist policies have had a real impact on the crops grown on the Nagel’s farm. China has stopped buying Canadian canola seeds, while India closed its borders to pulse crops and Italy cut back Canadian imports of durum wheat.

Agriculture is deemed an essential service, and that certainly makes me feel proud to be part of the industry. But it also highlights that we are an essential service operating without an essential service like broadband
Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel
Farmer

“There was either no movement and no trade at all for what we grow, or the trade that was happening was at really depressed prices,” says Jolly-Nagel, who hopes that the spirit of cross-border cooperation (which global trade is built upon) remains following this period of lockdown and tighter border controls. “The world feels more protectionist. I worry about the long-term ramifications for global trade.”

 

There are challenges closer to home too. “Agriculture is deemed an essential service, and that certainly makes me feel proud to be part of the industry. But it also highlights that we are an essential service operating without an essential service like broadband,” explains Nagel.

 

Low or fractured connectivity is a long term problem for many rural communities. But with her daughters now doing schoolwork online, the added demand on the farm’s internet connection creates real challenges in a remote region where even mobile phone coverage can drop out.

 

“A lot of modern farming equipment is run through mobile devices,” explains Nagel. “Some of the new technology we’re trying to use, like data collection and analysis, to make better decisions going forward, requires strong broadband, and we just don’t have it.”

 

However, farmers like Jolly-Nagel are resilient even in trying times and she remains optimistic that her farm will one day conduct business as normal. She hopes that the COVID-19 crisis will help people realize the essential role of farmers and global trade in providing the food they often take for granted.