Pennsylvania Ag Secretary Hosts Virtual Discussion Encouraging Confidence in Science to Pennsylvania Ag Industry

With all Pennsylvania adults now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding hosted a virtual discussion with Pennsylvania farmers who have already received the COVID-19 vaccine. They were joined by Dr. Mark Goedecker, regional medical director for WellSpan Health, who discussed the value of vaccinated Pennsylvanians sharing their story to boosting confidence and acceptance among others.

“This vaccine is as essential as our agriculture industry and we want to arm them with the information they need to make decisions with confidence,” said Redding. “Today we heard from farmers who shared their ‘why’ for getting vaccinated and that commonly included something more essential than food and health: family.

“We’ve all missed out over the past year, and one thing we can’t afford to lose is more time with those we love. Parents, children, brothers and sisters – there’s nothing to replace them. They are the ultimate reason.”

Those who work in Pennsylvania’s essential food and agriculture industry and choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine are protecting themselves, their family, their co-workers, and their community. In addition to this, they’re protecting the availability and accessibility of food. Vaccination is a personal decision which is highly influenced by confidence. Vaccine champions – those who have already been successfully vaccinated – are critical to building community confidence.

“At WellSpan Health we are committed to decreasing vaccine hesitancy, and it starts with educating those in our communities on the science, while also working to remove barriers to accessing the vaccine,” explained Goedecker. “We can and will overcome this pandemic, but it takes all of us doing our part to make that a reality. This shot of hope is a huge step in getting us there.”

Dr. Goedecker discussed the importance of those interested in learning about the COVID-19 vaccine to find information from credible sources that are regularly updated. And while the internet is a useful tool for research, when it comes to health-related issues the internet should not replace a discussion with a healthcare professional.

During a Facebook Live event, three Pennsylvania farmers discussed their reasons for choosing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Chris Hoffman, PA Farm Bureau Vice President, Mifflin & Juniata County Farmer

“I got the COVID-19 vaccine to protect my health and my family’s health,” said Hoffman. “Plus, if I do get COVID down the line, the antibodies from the vaccine will lessen the affect and decrease my risk for serious illness.

“I understand that getting the vaccine is a personal choice, but I have chosen to trust the science…just as I do on the farm. We use vaccine to protect the health and safety of our animals in our herd. If we accept science and technology in farming, we should do the same for our own health.”

John Good, The Good Farm, Lehigh County Organic Vegetable Farmer

“We operate a small family farm with a three- to five-person field-crew. One of our greatest fears over the past year was getting sick with COVID-19 and unable to work for a few weeks,” said Good. “This would be incredibly difficult for us to deal with during any season on a vegetable farm, when production schedules are always extremely tight. It could ruin our entire season. Another reason that was very important for us was to be able to spend more time with our parents, who are high-risk individuals.”

Recognizing some farmers are on the fence and leery about the process, John provided some advice and perspective.

“It’s worth it for so many reasons. The sense of relief you will feel after you get your shots and know it’s one less thing you will have to worry about in the background of an always busy farming season is probably reason enough,” said Good. “But also, the only way we are going to end this pandemic once and for all is through vaccination. We felt it was our duty as responsible citizens to be a part of that solution.

“The vaccination process was very efficient and simple. We had minor side effects like a sore arm and feeling a little under the weather for a day, but nothing too big. We are so happy to see widely available vaccinations and a decreasing level of community spread in our county,” added Good.

Phoebe Brubaker, Village Acres Farm, Juniata County Vegetable and Flower Farmer

“I couldn’t wait to get vaccinated. It gave me so much hope that we could safely return to our farmers markets and distribution sites this summer without worrying about spreading a dangerous virus to our customers,” said Brubaker. “It’s also a way for me to protect my mom, who is in her late seventies, and a very integral part of our farming operation.”

Phoebe talked about the impact of COVID-19 on rural communities. While COVID-19 hit them later than more urban areas of Pennsylvania, hospitals were quickly overwhelmed.

“We need to do our part to protect our communities and our elders,” Brubaker added. “They hold a wealth of information about farming and many have weathered the hardships of small pox and measles outbreaks. They did their part to get vaccinated then and control the disease. Now it’s our turn.”

State Resources

The Wolf Administration stresses the role Pennsylvanians play in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean surfaces frequently.
  • Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
  • If you must go out, you are required to wear a mask when in a business or where it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing.
  • Download the COVID Alert PA app and make your phone part of the fight. The free app can be found in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store by searching for “covid alert pa”.