Vaccinating the people who feed our families: farmers

‘They make up about 2% of the population, but they makeup 100% of our food.’

MONETA, Va. – Feeding the nation is not an easy task, but tens of thousands of farmers in Virginia roll up their sleeves to do so.

Now they need to keep their sleeves rolled up for the coronavirus vaccine.

“They make up about 2% of the population but they make up 100% of our food,” said Bedford County Farm Bureau President Amy Johnson.

Therefore, as essential workers, getting the vaccine is crucial.

Producing a variety of grains, Johnson helps run her husband’s 500-acre family farm of more than 100 years old in Moneta.

Ninety percent of Virginia farms are owned by families or individuals, according to Virginia Farm Bureau.

If a farmer contracts the coronavirus and is unable to work, it could mean losing the farm indefinitely.

“A serious illness or even a death in the family could spell disaster for many family farms,” Johnson said.

Serving also as a nurse practitioner, Johnson said losing patients to an invisible virus is devastating, “It’s very frustrating as a health care provider to not be able to give them an answer.”

Going down a list, Bonnie Tillotson, an extension agent in Appomattox, called farmer after farmer to let them know a dose is waiting for them.

But it was through word of mouth or as Johnson calls it, “shop talk”, that spread the information.

In early March, Tillotson helped 60 farmers get vaccinated.

“I had somebody else almost in tears because they have tried and tried and tried and could not get a callback,” explained Tillotson.

Now, she said about 140 farmers have received a dose, although other farmers still show hesitation.

“A lot of farmers think, ‘Well, I just stay here on my farm I don’t interact with people,’” Johnson said. “But the fact of the matter is, they do have to leave the farm from time to time. Whether they are going out to the grocery store or the livestock market. They can be exposed.”

Therefore, Johnson encourages farmers to take charge of their health because they are the backbone of society.

If you need to pre-register for the vaccine you can sign up on the statewide website or call 1-877-829-4682.

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