“[When COVID-19 began], it felt like the first thirty minutes of a horror movie. Every farm cancelled or postponed on us except one, and we knew we needed to get out of the city before the second act began.”— Hank
This series illustrates COVID-19’s effect on Midwesterners — one person at a time.
“I’ve been traveling across the country for a few years now with little to no mission, just following work and looking for a place I might like to live. I met Jess in Des Moines in the fall and we spent the winter together holed up from the cold, fell in love, and mapped out [places to stay] from the East Coast to the Pacific to learn how to sustainably farm. We made plans with dozens of homesteads and farms to host us so that we could learn where and how we want to live.
“[When COVID-19 began], it felt like the first thirty minutes of a horror movie. Every farm cancelled or postponed on us except one, and we knew we needed to get out of the city before the second act began. We packed up our camper van with everything we could and stored the rest with friends and family members.
“Before we crossed the state line [out of Iowa], a cloud resembling the rhinoceros from James and the Giant Peach swirled into a tornado and touched ground only a mile from the highway. Jess looked over at me and shrugged. All our plans had been obliterated, but there was no turning back.
“We slept in a rest stop when we made it through the storm and made it to the small farm deep in the Appalachians the next day. This was supposed to be our first stop on the road headed west, now as the situation has only worsened and North Carolina is blocking off State highways, we don’t know when we’ll be able to move on, and we’re okay with that.
“We’re grateful to be isolated and in a place we can learn and work every day. We’re planting and eating food from the garden, learned how to raise honeybees, and fish the Cane River for all the Rainbow Trout we could want. There is a woodshop in the basement of our small cabin for me to work in and a commercial kitchen where our hosts sit with us in the evenings and sip on moonshine from the neighbor’s still.
“It’s been three weeks now and our hosts have invited us to stay all summer if we want. Everything else in the future seems so uncertain, but for now we’re feeling happy and lucky, which at times we feel guilty about as everyone else complains about being cooped up. We’re rolling with punches just like everyone else and don’t know what we’ll be doing after this, but for now we’re learning more about organic farming each day and starting to weave ‘y’all’ more seamlessly into our conversations.”