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It’s time to brace ourselves

Progressive Dairy Editor Peggy Coffeen Published on 17 April 2020

As I sit down to write this editorial, many of us are in the middle of changes we never anticipated. COVID-19 has transformed the way we live our lives and run our businesses.

We’ve put plans on hold, postponed gatherings and delayed purchases. Yet, while the pause button is pressed, there is one event that must continue as scheduled, despite orders to stay inside: Planting season.



New plantAccording to the Prospective Plantings report released last month by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), America’s farmers intend to plant 97 million acres of corn this year, up 8% from last year.

The sight of tractors getting out in the fields to put corn in the ground is a welcomed sign of life and hope. There’s a resiliency to appreciate as those little green blades emerge and mature into towering majestic symbols of abundance.

Often overlooked, however, are the above-ground nodal roots that extend from the base of the stalk into the soil. These are the brace roots, and if you’ve ever chased heifers across a frozen corn field after harvest, you’re familiar with this ring of fibrous fingers that secures the plant to the ground. I’m no agronomy expert, but I have tripped over a root or two enough to know that they are tough, strong and stable.

What’s interesting to note is that the brace roots are the corn plant’s innate response to environmental stress. They grow thicker and stronger on the outermost rows of a field to anchor down the plants that are most exposed to wind. When disease pressures are high, or when the underground root system is not able to acquire adequate nutrients or water, the brace roots step up their game. Without them, the corn plant would not be able to survive a stressful growing season.

Perhaps you can relate to being in a stressful season right now. Maybe you’re feeling depleted of energy, or battered by the relentless winds of dairy market storms. Add to that the pressure of a serious disease that threatens human health, and you now have an environment that fosters despair, anger, hopelessness and frustration.


But even when the rest of the world is on pause, we can make the choice to not be stuck in this negative state. In order to move forward, we must first brace ourselves. How can we do that? By anchoring to the people in our lives that keep us grounded as we grow. The ones who hold us accountable to our vision and goals despite the current circumstances. Those who know the potential we have to yield greatness. The ones who nourish us with love and encouragement. The family members, friends and business associates that motivate us to look beyond this season of survival, to see past the storm clouds hanging over our heads and to keep our eyes on the ray of light that’s breaking through the darkness.

It may feel like there are many things we cannot control right now. But what we can control is how we respond to the stress in our lives. Will we be like the corn plant, encircling ourselves with a network of support to be positioned to survive a less-than-ideal growing season? Or will we risk toppling over by trying to go at this alone?

Stability. Nourishment. Support. Hope. That’s what brace roots provide. And that’s why, despite social distancing, we need to remain connected to the people who hold us together.

So in this season, choose to brace yourself.  end mark

Getty Images.

Peggy Coffeen
  • Peggy Coffeen

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