How Are You Handling Things? Q&A with Alumna Mary Ann Doré
*** Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing a series of Q&As featuring OAC community members to showcase how people are coping with our uncertain - but collective - state. We’re hoping these will help connect and support our community (in a small way) during these isolating and challenging times. Look after yourself and those around you. ***
Mary Ann Doré is a 2007 animal science grad who owns and operates a dairy and crop farm with her family outside of New Dundee. As a farmer, her work is definitely an essential service, but she made some time in her busy schedule to let us know how she’s doing.
Tell us about your current situation.
I work alongside my husband, brother and parents. We are all working, having not travelled recently and we are thankfully all in good health. My husband and I have a daughter who is 7, and my brother has a daughter who is 5 and a 1-month old son.
Your job function is an "essential service". What's changed? What's the same?
Our day-to-day is very much the same as it was before. We are preparing the machinery for spring planting, and the cows are being taken care of like they are the other 365 days of the year. What is different is the level of interaction we have with all of our support network. Biosecurity is always a concern on the farm, but now there are heightened policies involving anyone who comes on farm like our veterinarian, nutritionist, milk transporter, etc.
How are you finding/handling social distancing?
We are fortunate to have work and the kids have plenty of space and activities to keep them busy and safe, but I’m finding myself missing the in-person interactions. We often comment on how in a busy season, like during planting, we might not leave the farm for two weeks, but this is really something else entirely. I really feel for the people who are stuck alone (or with multiple kids) in a small apartment who no longer have access to parks and carefree walks.
What are some ways you are staying in touch with friends and family?
We have been using virtual platforms to have conversations with friends, and our daughter with her friends. While we always have had an ongoing conversation on a text-group with friends, as we’re used to being isolated because of the farm, we have found ourselves moving to virtual-meetups as I miss seeing people.
What’s brought you the most joy over the last few days?
I won’t turn down an animal meme. We have also been watching a lot of the online concerts that artists have been putting online. A household favourite is Dan Mangan. He has a weekly online concert on Zoom organized through the house-concert platform Side Door Access that he helped create. Now that house parties are not allowed, they have adapted to help artists host virtual concerts. Proceeds of his shows go to different charities; you can find us on there in the “crowd” every week until this is all over.
You have a daughter at home – how are you keeping her entertained? Any tips on how to talk to kids about COVID-19?
Our daughter is 7, and I feel like we’re running on a summer schedule. She’s even picked up more chores at the barn so she can pay for additional online tv subscription she wants! She does miss her friends and the routine of school, but she seems to have a good handle of what is going on. That being said, we try not to watch the news when she is in the room; it also helps limit how much we are taking in as well.
How are you adapting with home-schooling?
I might be more concerned if she was in high school, but we are treating schooling as a fun optional activity when we have time rather than it being another chore to fit into our already long days. The teachers have been great, supportive and understanding of working families. Our family goal is to get through this physically healthy while maintaining our mental health. Mental health is something we have to keep an eye on, especially in these times when a lot of the activities we do for balance are inaccessible. Fighting over homework isn’t something we’re going to add to the pile, but we’re striving to continue encouraging our daughter reading and learning alongside us on the farm
Do you have any advice for your fellow alumni during these uncertain times?
Follow the advice of the government and the scientists and take care of each other. I’m pretty proud of how different levels of government are working together, and how all of the different industries are working together to find solutions to this ever-changing situation. As Mr. Rogers said, ‘Look for the helpers.”