For a farmer such as Brad Bossuyt, seeding is one of the busiest times of the year. But what happens if a case of COVID-19 pops up, instead of wheat or canola?
You go to work.
Bossuyt, who farms 4,000 acres of various grain crops around Oak Bluff, said even though he was sick for a few days, and was forced to take unscheduled rest breaks, he was able to battle through the novel coronavirus to finish the job.
"I wasn't about to sit on the couch — I couldn't. It wasn't an option," he said recently. "This isn't producing widgets, this is producing food. Our grain feeds the world.
"These fields won't seed themselves."
The 46-year-old said he didn't really feel anything on the first day, but by Day 2, "I definitely did feel it." Days 3 and 4 weren't much better.
"I felt ill for three days. I would have to take time to lay down; I would have to come back to the house."
In between, Bossuyt would take a truckload of seed or fertilizer and drive it out to whatever field was being worked at that time by his brother. He would get out, connect the load to the farm machinery, and transfer the seed or fertilizer, before disconnecting the two, and heading back to rest at home.
Bossuyt said, thankfully, today's machines have such a large capacity to hold seed or fertilizer he didn't have to run out every few minutes to the field.
"He would text me and say he'd need me in 20 minutes," he said. "Then I would get up and go there."
"I wasn't about to sit on the couch ‐ I couldn't. It wasn't an option. This isn't producing widgets, this is producing food. Our grain feeds the world." – Brad Bossuyt
Even though Bossuyt was sick, he still didn't think he had COVID.
"By the time I got my result, I was already feeling better," he said. "But I was totally shocked.
"When you start harvesting or you start seeding, it is a shock to your system because of the long hours and hard work and you're breathing in dust from seed and chemicals, so I thought it was because of that. I don't know where I would have got it. I haven't been around anyone. I have no recollection of going anywhere or seeing anyone."
Bossuyt now knows he would have been infectious when he was around his father, who is retired from farming, but still helps out when needed, as well as his mother.
"We were never close to each other during that time, but I guess it was long enough," he said. "They both got it, but they both had one shot (of vaccine), so I'm definitely in favour of the vaccine. They both had a couple of days they didn't feel good and laid in bed, but now they are fine."
His wife and three children tested negative.
Bill Campbell, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers and a farmer near Minto, said farmers do what farmers have to do.
"The work has to be done," said Campbell. "It's not as if you can plant seed in August.
"When you're a farmer, you can call in sick, but it is you who will have to get it done anyway."
"When you're a farmer, you can call in sick, but it is you who will have to get it done anyway." – Bill Campbell, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers
Campbell said he hasn't heard of many cases of farmers getting COVID, especially since the life can be fairly isolated.
Roxy Watson, owner of Roxy's Restaurant & Lounge in Oak Bluff, said with farmers busy working, she is doing a booming takeout business — and sometimes delivering right to the field.
"We try to do what we can, especially right now," said Watson.
"It is nice to have that business at least. And if we're not too busy, we are totally able to accommodate and go to the field."
Watson said one farmer she knows just keeps a tab and someone will pop in and pick up two to six meals at a time to run out to workers.
Meanwhile, Bossuyt said they finished seeding the fields about a week ago now, helped, for better or for worse, by Mother Nature.
"With it being so dry, we didn't really need to take a break. The one day (when I was sick), we established a game plan and then kept going."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.