Casey O’Neill cultivates cannabis, vegetables, and fruit in Mendocino County. We will be publishing his weekly newsletter regarding growing cannabis and produce sustainably.
Today is day 2 after getting the second dose of the vaccine. Yesterday was rough. Aches, chills, fatigue, brain fog. Still running a slight fever today but feeling a world of difference from yesterday. I was talking to my brother who had Covid, and he pointed out that one day of bad feeling is a lot better than the 10 days he went through with the virus.
I feel a mix of feelings around the vaccine. As a food system worker I appreciate having access to it. I feel a responsibility to people who receive our produce, and I feel it is important to honor that responsibility in any way possible.
If you had asked me the day before we got notified that we were eligible for the vaccine, I would have told you that I wasn’t sure about it and would probably wait and see how it played out. At that point I hadn’t considered how it could relate to my role as a food producer, which was brought into clarity by the designation of agriculture in the 1B category.
Like everyone, I want things to get back to normal. Smiles, hugs, gatherings, these things are of such deep human importance for all of us and I recognize the damage that is done when they are removed from the fabric of human life. The economic impacts on small businesses are massive and have a ripple effect throughout our communities.
When we were informed that we were eligible for the vaccine I was surprised to find that there was no thought of hesitation in my mind. I hold frustration around the capitalistic system in which the vaccines were produced, and don’t know enough of the science to make a knowledgeable evaluation myself about the health and efficacy, but I found myself already knowing my choice without having to think further about it.
I see a lot of chatter and extreme viewpoints on social media, and I have mixed feelings about all of it. What I can say though, is that the framing of “accessibility to food producers” shifted it for me from a question of “do I want to” to a statement of “this is my responsibility”. To be honest, I think it was helpful to feel as though I had that guidance in the decision because I didn’t feel the need to vacillate or agonize about it.
Once the decision was made, the first shot followed (about a month ago). I was groggy and sore the next day, but would have fared better had I planned for a day of downtime instead of an excursion to visit with friends and go mushroom hunting in the woods. Despite not feeling so good though, I was able to be on my feet for a good portion of the day.
Yesterday there were points where I was so foggy that I couldn’t get my eyes to focus enough to understand the words in the book I’m reading. It came and went in waves, which had to do in part with my caffeine intake. After my first cup of coffee in the morning I was able to write, cook and do the morning animal chores before I fell off. It was a rough late morning and early afternoon but then I had a second cup of coffee and felt able to do the midday chores.
Between pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits and hoophouses full of tender starts, there is a set level of work that is required 7 days/week. In retrospect, it may have been smarter to stagger our vaccinations so that everyone on the farm wasn’t in recovery at the same time. I knew from reading that the second shot was much worse and we did schedule downtime, but there is still the basic business of life.
If I had it to do over again, I would make sure all my food was prepared beforehand and I would have stocked the animals up on rations and bedding on the evening after getting the shot with the goal of cutting out as much effort as possible the next day. The more that folks can plan to have a full day of downtime after the second shot, the better. If you find that you don’t have side effects then you get a free day, but if you do, then you can rest.
There’s so much to marinate on in the reality of a pandemic that drives a rapid vaccination process. It trips me out that the shot I got one day could make me feel like it did the next day. It made me think about how much I take my health for granted, and how much of a privilege it is to be able bodied. It made me think about how fragile life is, how arbitrary it can be.
Our communities hold many opinions on the virus and on the vaccine, ranging from extreme caution to total disdain and disregard. I feel a responsibility as a food producer and as a community member to the more vulnerable among us. I am willing to take whatever steps I can to protect them, and I am willing to participate in the vaccination program as part of that feeling of responsibility. I see the different viewpoints and I often feel like I don’t know what to think, but I know that I couldn’t stand the thought that I might send more than vegetables home with someone, and I am willing to take whatever steps are available to me to avoid doing so.
We each hold a responsibility to ourselves and to our communities that defines what it means to be human. Crises test the mettle of these roles, probing and exploiting the weaknesses with a ruthlessness that is devoid of emotion, a natural law. Nature says that all systems will face strain and must adapt or perish. We are in an evolutionary moment, though it can be hard to see the direction and we won’t know the results until after they happen.
Come what may, I look forward to sharing the journey with the amazing humans I encounter along the path. Community is more than the sum of its parts, a weaving of different threads to form the tapestry of human life. The sun is returning and hope springs eternal, I look forward to seeing everyone at the market, and I am glad to be in community in so many ways with so many lovely humans. Much love and great success on your journey!