Unique COVID-19 Social-Distancing Message for Texas Farmers

AgriLife agronomist alerting Texas farmers about their importance to remain healthy


Adapted from AgriLife Today, April 4, 2020


The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has specialists and agents statewide helping to keep Texans educated, informed and safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Calvin Trostle, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension agronomist in Lubbock, is a regular guest on many agriculture radio programs in the Texas High Plains and beyond. His message, however, is reaching farther than ever before as stations share his message over two dozen syndicated affiliates.

Given his broad platform, Trostle decided chose to discuss something besides sorghum, soil testing, cotton or cover crops over the air.

“In weed control, AgriLife Extension says, ‘start clean.’  Remove weeds before you plant. For coronavirus, ‘stay clean.’  Avoid infection in the first place.”

“Farm and ranch country in Texas is still in the early phase of the coronavirus outbreak,” Trostle recently said over the KFLP airwaves in Floydada. “We can still contain it, which is especially important as health experts explain how easily it spreads.

“The next few weeks are very important. Common sense in Texas agriculture about how we conduct our business and social interactions, now, will better help us backstop jobs and the economy across the state.”

Flattening the curve

Trostle went on to explain to listeners how Texas agriculture could help “flatten the curve.”

“There is no immunity to COVID-19—if you are exposed,” Trostle said. “But our discipline in minimizing and eliminating social contact for now protects loved ones, friends, neighbors—and fellow Texas farmers and ranchers and those who work with them.”

“Farmers must understand how crucial their well-being is to America’s food supply.  Concerns from a Lamb County farmer friend led Trostle to think about how he could reach even more people in rural areas to emphasize how crucial they are to the nation right now.

Protecting producers from COVID-19

“I and my AgriLife Extension colleagues are committed to the people who make Texas agriculture possible,” he said. “We can use many means, including radio, to let Texas farmers, ranchers and agriculture employees know how important each one of them are to Texas at this critical time.

“We need to be safe, otherwise the rural communities and way of life we cherish could see the nightmares of our urban neighbors.”

Calvin Trostle along with North Region Extension program leader examine 2019 crop samples.  (AgriLife Extension photo by Kay Ledbetter.)

Trostle also reminded listeners that people in rural communities tend to have far fewer medical resources like a local hospital or sometimes even a doctor—making social distancing and self-isolation for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms even more important.

Trostle explained that farm and ranch operations will strengthen local Texas economies in a way a restaurant, clothing store, or other retail outlets cannot.

“A portion of Texas agriculture with greater challenges are our commercial fruit and vegetable farmers,” he said. “They contribute foods and produce you might immediately see in our grocery stores. If we’re sick, we won’t have the labor for planting and especially harvesting. We see this happening in Europe now.”

Safety first

Trostle shared with radio listeners that the virus and the sickness it inflicts is not just a Dallas or a New York City or a California problem.

“It might not be our problem in much of Texas agriculture at this moment, but it will soon be our problem if we’re not careful. And the consequences could be dire.”

The Texas agriculture community should follow the same coronavirus safety guidelines as everyone else, said Trostle.

“Even if you are in a farm and ranch community in Texas, or a county with not yet a single reported COVID-19 case, the too-common thinking is ‘what is to fear?’ That thinking needs to change. People around us may already be infected.  We may just not know yet due to lack of widespread testing.”

Slowing the spread of the coronavirus

Trostle said limiting person-to-person contact immediately can help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“In weed control, AgriLife Extension says, ‘start clean.’  Remove weeds before you plant. For coronavirus, ‘stay clean.’  Avoid infection in the first place.”

Trostle encouraged Texas farmers and ranchers to wave, call, chat over the fence line or online – just make sure you visit with each other in ways that avoid groups and respects the 6-feet social distancing guideline.

Trostle told listeners, “It might take someone like you to be the responsible one—at the gin or the farm store—and insist on social-distancing to account for the inaction of others.”

Reaching farmers nationwide

Since he addressed KFLP listeners, Trostle has also spoken about social distancing on KDHN in Dimmitt, KRFE in Lubbock, and the James Hunt Ag, Amarillo. The KFLP program was recorded and is being used on Ag News Updates on stations from California to New York.

“Whether you are a commercial produce grower or a farm and ranch operation with a few employees, communicate and translate to each employee how important it is for them to follow safe health practices,” Trostle said.

Texas farmers, ranchers and ag workers, you are too important to get sick. Isolate from others. The remote nature of your work makes this easier—and we always have plenty to do anyway. Together we will help sustain the Texas economy via agriculture to help our state pull through.”

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