For the duration of the global health crisis, Ariane will be providing regular updates on how the pandemic is impacting Tenuta San Carlo.
There is a song by the David Wax Museum that goes, “Oh, I know, it’s gonna get harder before it gets easier.” I have been singing that song to myself this entire week.
Let me be clear: I am exceptionally lucky. I am outside of the Northern areas of Italy that are in a full, complete health emergency. I run a farm, a primary sector business that must continue through this crisis in order to ensure the continuity of our food supply. I am not stuck at home, and my work involves being outside. All of my family, friends, employees, and community are under great stress but no one has the virus. My partner runs a large organic farm and we come home to each other at night and are able to give each other emotional and practical support. I feel extraordinarily fortunate.
That being said (and repeated over and over again), it has been an exhausting and very stressful week. The hardest part for me personally has been having to ensure the continuity of our work in food production while implementing safety procedures to ensure the safety of my staff and the partners who collaborate with us. There are new regulations in place to ensure safety in the work place, and implementing them on a small farm business has not been easy. Safety materials are not easy to come by (the healthcare system obviously gets priority) and what applies to a farm where people work outside for the most part continues to evolve.
In any crisis, managing peoples’ fears, anxieties, and uncertainties takes a lot of energy. I have spent a good deal of my time checking in with employees, supply chain partners, and family and friends. Misinformation abounds, and I have had to remind people to only listen to government or industry association sources. I personally have limited my news consumption to the nightly virus bulletin, government announcements, and the absolute minimum headline news.
It is true that the best continues to come out in people: my employees are being flexible, understanding, and strong. The situation keeps changing and so I am continually updating procedures and practices. People are calling regularly to just “check in.” One of the most touching moments of my week was when the head of the building company I work with, upon hearing that we had had a break-in, called the day after to hear how things were going. Just because.
The situation is difficult, though. And the longer this goes on, the harder it becomes. Within a 24-hour period, I had squatters in one of our buildings, and robbers tried to break-in to where one of my employees lives on the farm. The police were on the farm twice this week.
In anticipation of what we all hope will be the “peak” of the virus in Italy this week, the government last night further restricted movement and activity. For the next couple of weeks, the farm will be operating only on core essential activities and everything else will be put on hold (most of it was already). Fortunately, the government’s emergency economic package provides immediate reprieve to businesses and the economy, and further stimulus packages are planned once we get through the thick of the crisis.
Never have I felt so proud to be an Italian, and a farmer. I continue to have full faith in Italy and its ability to come out of this crisis stronger and more united. This week will be very trying and very telling.
Oh, I know, it’s gonna harder before it gets easier.