Maple Ridge Dairy owner Brian Forrest oversees the health and well-being of 1,700-plus dairy animals on a farm in rural Marathon County near Stratford, Wisconsin.
Forrest is concerned about animal health but just as concerned about protecting the health of those who need to be on the farm, like veterinarians, milk haulers, construction crews, salespeople, visitors, employees’ families and then those people they interact with. And, he’s concerned about his own family’s health.
All of this is the reason why it was so important to him to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I’m very supportive of the vaccine and now have both immunizations,” he said. “That’s the key, the ticket to get out of this thing we’re all so sick of, this pandemic. For me personally, vaccines are a no-brainer.”
“We use vaccines on the farm every day and they’re such a benefit to the health of animals. And, for humans, too. That’s pretty cut and dry to me, pretty simple.”
Forrest and his wife, Elaine, a secretary at Stratford High School, have school-aged children who were active in sports and extracurricular activities pre-pandemic. These activities are very important to their development, Forrest said, and the pandemic became a major disruption at home and at work.
“It was a bummer, personally and professionally,” he said. “I was concerned about it on the farm and at home. My wife is one of the most workplace-affected people on the planet and I’d hear about COVID every day and how the school was managing it.”
The family and farm made the most of the situation, he said, “but we want this all to be in the rearview mirror.”
The pandemic did and continues to affect the farm.
First, to Forrest’s knowledge, no employee tested positive. There were numerous testings, some scares and protocols to follow. “With our employees, getting them tested and staying healthy has been a huge priority. Having sick employees impacts a business and affects employees’ families’ health, too, so when a farmer gets the vaccine, the community is safer for everyone.”
The farming economy is generally unpredictable, with many factors influencing production, he said.
Then, add in a pandemic.
Fortunately, Forrest said, all milk produced at Maple Ridge was accepted by the cheese factory “so our supply chain was not impacted there and none of our milk had to be dumped. The milk that did get dumped still affects our milk price, though. We’re all affected. Farmers are in this together. When supply chains are disrupted it affects us all. It truly does.”
Forrest believes everything needs to be done to help educate people about the vaccine so they can make informed decisions about getting immunized. His willingness to be vaccinated is part of that education for others.
“Again, we want this to be in the rearview mirror. We want to go back to business and doing what we do without all these interruptions and all the wasted time. Whether you believe it or not, it still takes our time. Let’s just get it done and the tool to do that is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling us. Vaccinations are a huge part of the answer.”
For more information about COVID vaccines, visit marshfieldclinic.org/CovidVaccine.