West Texas couple still farming during coronavirus
By Julie Tomascik
In West Texas, a few things are certain—the wind will blow, the cotton will grow and farmers will continue caring for their crops despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s not life as normal for Eric and Alisha Schwertner, but they have adjusted to manage their schedules during this unprecedented time.
“We are more careful about going to the co-op, to the store and other places,” Eric said. “We are trying to be proactive and getting stuff ordered and delivered to the farm instead of going to the store.”
Agriculture and the food sectors were among the industries labeled critical and essential.
“We’ve always been essential,” Eric said. “Agriculture helps make the world go round. We will have to grow our crops, but we’re watching the economy more closely. Right now, it’s very difficult to market our crops.”
It’s a stressful time for the young farming couple who made the move back to production agriculture just three years ago.
“This is hurting us, and it’s hurting a lot of other farmers who are trying to figure out what to do,” Eric said. “It's changed planting intentions for a lot of farmers.”
The Schwertners are among those who have made changes.
They just finished planting grain sorghum this year in some of their cotton acreage due to the low prices for cotton.
“When the cotton market started taking a big hit, we changed our strategies,” he said. “We switched some cotton acreage to grain crops for that reason.”
Although the coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced, the young couple tries to keep a positive outlook for themselves and their twin boys.
“We are trying to focus on the positives,” Alisha, who is a product manager for the ag software company Agrian, said. “We came back to the farm to raise our family. We appreciate how we were raised, the opportunity to grow up in agriculture. We want them to have that.”
They try not to bring the stress of the farm life into their home when spending family time with their twin boys who are just over a year old, but the economy is a constant worry.
“Our biggest concern is the payments that we have to make and the lack of revenue that we have to make them with,” she said. “We see the stock market tank and the prices dropping, and it makes us question our decisions. We have invested a large part of our life into this ground, and we are facing the fear of the unknown. I’m confident we will recover, but I just don’t know when that will be.”
The couple farms in Tom Green, Runnels and Coleman counties. Their primary crop is cotton, but they also grow corn, wheat and grain sorghum.
As a product manager for Agrian, Alisha works with retailers on software for precision agriculture, compliance, agronomic decisions, sustainability measures and more.
“I’m thankful we both still have jobs. Even though times are tough, we are still able to work and provide for our family,” Eric said. “There are millions of Americans who are jobless. We pray for them to figure out how to make their payments and take care of their families.”