Normally masks are viewed as bad or scary. We associate them with bank robbers and Halloween costumes. We generally don’t think of them as something that can bring people together. Never mind people actually wanting to wear one.
We enjoyed bolstering morale recently by supplying a number of cloth masks to staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kim Kenward, our R&D manager, has been a quilter for many years, and my mom Debbie Klein enjoys sewing.
When the Alberta government issued its recommendation that masks be worn as a way to reduce the risk of spreading the virus in areas where physical distancing may be challenging or not possible, we sprang into action and rolled out our first line of custom-made cloth masks in an array of colours and patterns.
It seemed like a proactive way to protect both staff and customers. My mom Debbie isn’t an overly avid sewer — she decided to make masks as a way of coping with what was happening around her. She began experimenting with different designs and has made over 30 masks now.
Likewise, Kim had seen all the conversation about the need for masks, so she outfitted her family. When our company moved to the policy of needing masks in the lab, she thought it would be a good idea to help out.
We all know how frustrating it is to not be able to buy hand sanitizer. Masks have become an important safety tool that aren’t always available, either — and even when they are, the standard N95 masks aren’t as comfortable as one might hope.
There’s something about a homemade mask that makes you happy to wear one. It comes with a story attached to it. It turns what is otherwise a horrible pandemic into something we can all unite in the midst of.
For me, leaving the house during the pandemic is a daily risk I must face. My work simply cannot be done from home. My husband has some underlying health issues and my son has asthma. As a seed analyst I have to put myself at risk to do my job, but in the process, I put them at risk, too. My mask has become a symbol of that sacrifice and what it means to be a seed analyst on the front lines.
As someone who has been home-based since the pandemic began, Kim finds it hard to not be there in the office to help relieve some of the pressure on her coworkers. Making masks has been one way she’s contributed to making their lives easier when she can’t be there in person to help out.
In the end, both staff and customers have made the best of an otherwise difficult situation. Our industry keeps right on marching when other industries have all but collapsed under the weight of COVID-19. Our customers have been patient and understanding, knowing we’re all in this together and doing our best to ensure the business of agriculture continues to be resilient and get its job done despite a changed world.