My Economy

A family farm’s quandary: small kids, no school and harvest around the corner

Andie Corban Jul 9, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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Lou Benoist/AFP via Getty Images
My Economy

A family farm’s quandary: small kids, no school and harvest around the corner

Andie Corban Jul 9, 2020
Lou Benoist/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Anne Schwagerl and her husband, Peter, work full time on their 360-acre farm in Browns Valley, Minnesota. However, their life on Prairie Point Farm has been different recently, as their children haven’t been in school or day care since mid-March because of the coronavirus.

“We have had our full family involved on the farm,” Schwagerl said. “The kids have been not super helpful yet, but they’re 6 and 4. It’s pretty tough to get that to work all the time.”

During planting season in April, Schwagerl was relieved to have good weather conditions. Instead of spending her days in the fields with her husband, they rotated between planting and helping their children with distance learning.

Anne and Peter Schwagerl with their two children.
Anne and Peter Schwagerl with their two children. (Courtesy Anne Schwagerl)

“The really big question mark right now is whether there’ll be school this fall,” Schwagerl said. “Because harvest season, almost more than planting, is all hands on deck. That would be really hard to manage with both kids and no child care.”

As a farmer, Schwagerl said she’s had to get used to all the things she can’t control, like the markets or the weather. Uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus and what it means for her children is yet another thing she can’t control.

“That’s been just another layer on that cake of just trying to let go and knowing that what’s gonna happen is gonna happen.”

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COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What does the unemployment picture look like?

It depends on where you live. The national unemployment rate has fallen from nearly 15% in April down to 8.4% percent last month. That number, however, masks some big differences in how states are recovering from the huge job losses resulting from the pandemic. Nevada, Hawaii, California and New York have unemployment rates ranging from 11% to more than 13%. Unemployment rates in Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota and Vermont have now fallen below 5%.

Will it work to fine people who refuse to wear a mask?

Travelers in the New York City transit system are subject to $50 fines for not wearing masks. It’s one of many jurisdictions imposing financial penalties: It’s $220 in Singapore, $130 in the United Kingdom and a whopping $400 in Glendale, California. And losses loom larger than gains, behavioral scientists say. So that principle suggests that for policymakers trying to nudge people’s public behavior, it may be better to take away than to give.

How are restaurants recovering?

Nearly 100,000 restaurants are closed either permanently or for the long term — nearly 1 in 6, according to a new survey by the National Restaurant Association. Almost 4.5 million jobs still haven’t come back. Some restaurants have been able to get by on innovation, focusing on delivery, selling meal or cocktail kits, dining outside — though that option that will disappear in northern states as temperatures fall. But however you slice it, one analyst said, the United States will end the year with fewer restaurants than it began with. And it’s the larger chains that are more likely to survive.

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