Rural families are uniquely prepared for 'social distancing'

We stock up. We go days without seeing anyone. We survive.

Rural families are used to having their pantries well-stocked in case of emergencies. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

After my husband and I got married and purchased a home in Medina, N.D., his top concern for me was whether I'd ever remember to buy enough groceries.

I grew up on a farm, but it's a farm right outside of Billings, Mont. My parents' home is about five minutes from a Walmart. I went to college and started my career in Bismarck, N.D., where it was not unusual for me to hit a grocery store after work as often as not.

But when you live 30 miles or more from the nearest full-service store, you can't just grab what you need when you realize you're out of this, that and the other thing.

While I never was anywhere near as bad about keeping things on hand as Brandon anticipated, I'm not going to lie โ€” there still are nights when I abruptly change my meal plans because I forgot to pick up an ingredient. But, I can guarantee, it would take a long, long time for us to starve around this place.

As people across the country and world hunker down during this coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic, we in rural areas are already pretty prepared.


I've tried to learn from the example of my mother-in-law, who always has a supply of pretty much every kitchen staple a person would need on hand. I still have not reached her levels of organization or preparedness, but I'm getting better.

When you're in a remote area, you learn that you better grab two of things of which you only need one. I have three boxes of spaghetti noodles in my cupboard right now. I have two freezers filled with beef, as well as some vegetables and fruits, other meats and some odds and ends. I have some frozen loaves of bread, as well as bread dough that I bought when my main concern about getting stranded at home was blizzards. There are canned goods in the cupboard, as well as beans and rice and things that will last quite awhile before I have to give them a smell test. If we don't leave here for a few weeks, we'd probably barely notice, diet-wise. My biggest concern would be running out of milk, of which we all drink quite a bit.

Likewise, when it comes to social interaction, we're pretty self-sufficient. I already work full-time from home, staying in contact with my co-workers through phone calls, texts, messaging systems, video chats, emails and a bunch of other ways that seemed impossible only a few years ago.

As I'm writing this, our schools in North Dakota, as well as our neighbors in Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota, have closed. My kids' daycare is still open for now, providing them some social interaction with a small number of friends. But even if that closed, we're pretty used to going without seeing many people. My husband's parents live within steps of us, but any other neighbors are at least a mile away. When the weather is bad or when someone is sick, we get by with just each other as company.

If nothing else, there's always work to be done, and this way, there are just more hands to do it. And again, technology has allowed us to stay close to family and friends near and far.

So, for our more urban friends, take heart. You will get through this time of social distancing. Our regular lives in rural areas are pretty well distanced from the socialization to which many people are accustomed, and we're surviving just fine. As long as this virus is circulating, make sure you're doing what you need to keep yourself and your community safe and healthy.

Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's content manager. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, N.D., with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at or 701-595-0425.

Jenny Schlecht is the director of ag content for Agweek and serves as editor of Agweek, Sugarbeet Grower and BeanGrower. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at or 701-595-0425.
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