One of the things that has been taken away from us this year is the sense of community. We’re starting to get that back, and more and more public events are starting to take place. However, the risk of COVID is still keeping many people to themselves. Festivals, sporting events and other public events have all been pushed back a year. From a medical standpoint, avoiding large crowds is a wise choice. From a psychological standpoint, it has its dangers. We are by nature social animals, and spending too much time away from human contact can take a toll on one’s mental health.

There are workarounds. I used to have a monthly dinner with a group of friends in my area. We’ve converted that dinner to a monthly Zoom chat. It’s a little unwieldy at times, and some people’s unfamiliarity with the technology means that we end up speaking to someone’s forehead or nose for a couple hours, but it’s been a good way to keep the community together through a tough period. In addition, I’ve made some new friends by joining in Zoom chats with people I’ve known only by social media. I’ve really come to look forward to these meetings, and they’ve gone a long way toward making a rough situation bearable.

I’ve missed attending meat industry conventions, believe it or not. Even though I’m not a processor, the ones I get to cover are fun. Whether it’s a national event like AAMP, one of its state shows or something like the Certified Angus Beef Annual Conference, they’re invaluable educational and networking opportunities. It’s nice to catch up with friends over a cold beer and take in the sights of a new city. I’m hoping the health crisis in this country will allow for more travel next year. In the meantime, don’t wait until a 2021 trade show to catch up with another processor from across the country. Give them a call, set up a video chat – do something to keep that sense of community alive and well. This year has been physically and mentally exhausting, and we all need to take care of ourselves and fulfill our needs. Social interaction, even if it’s through a computer or phone screen, can help.