Let’s all share a collective exhale for the near end of 2020. 

It was a year marked by too many unsettling uncertainties to count, but also one where we showed up for each other in a new and important way. It’s true that in times of crisis, we find out what is truly important, or in the case of 2020 – essential.  

The term essential worker was coined by the federal government early in the COVID-19 pandemic and was quickly adopted into the American economic lexicon thereafter. Essential “Front-line” workers assumed risks other non-essentials did not, they worked outside their homes in service to the health and wellness of their fellow humans so the wheels of essential goods and services continued to turn without interruption.  

And while March seems like five years ago now, we remember with fondness the sizeable emotion we all felt when yard signs honoring front-line workers popped up on our neighbors’ lawns and in the windows of shuttered store fronts. We watched, awe struck, as doctors and nurses were applauded during their shift change in cities across the U.S. Heroes don’t always wear capes, we know, this year, they wore masks. 

As the pandemic continued on in the United States, so too did our essential workers. 

And like any prolonged, regular pattern, it started to feel downright normal. It’s important to remember that working in full-coverage PPE is not normal, and that the contributions of essential workers still deserve a hefty dose of frequent and sustained thanks and praise. 

So, in this season of reflection and giving thanks, we find ourselves particularly thankful this year for the many essential workers whose service above self feels especially worthy of our gratitude.  

As so many of our employees who are making the butter and the cheese are essential, we understand firsthand the full weight of our role in maintaining the vital food system during this unsettling moment in history. That responsibility is not lost on us, and we’re so proud of our team of 127 Bettermakers who have shown us what selfless, tireless dedication looks like over the past 8 months.  

So, thank you all, again, a million times over, for showing up for each other, every day. 

While it’s easy to feel isolated here in rural Vermont, the COVID-19 pandemic affected us all, deeply. We watched trucks full of butter and cheese return to the Creamery after restaurants shut down in March; we felt the ground beneath the specialty food industry shake with the implications associated with the loss of restaurants, mass unemployment and rapidly changing consumer shopping habits.  

We also knew that we were all in this together, from the makers to the mongers, the restaurants pivoting to takeout to the retailers who were desperate to keep ample stock for the growing number of nervous shoppers stockpiling through their stress. 

Our team embraced and employed one of our most important core values: collaboration, to tackle each new obstacle, and slowly, we proved that we are always better together, no matter the circumstances. We did it for the farmers, whose animals needed to be milked despite a sudden decline in demand for fluid milk, with the closing of schools and the like.  

We did it for the new contingent of bakers who found solace in a loaf of freshly baked sourdough, and for the kids discovering that baking is indeed a science worth studying.   

It was a proving point for interconnectivity of our entire food industry, one that exposed and heightened the vulnerabilities, and one in which we also found our unique strength at the same time. We don’t wish for these moments of reckoning ever, but it’s a good feeling to recognize that our peoples’ hands and hearts were part of this important effort.  

In gratitude for a brighter beginning to 2021, and the continued health of our families at work and at home, we are sending thanks to our essential workers for all you do. May it be appreciated at dinner tables nationwide this week and forever.  


 

Kara Young manages communications and outreach for Vermont Creamery; she’s a proud mom to Parker, a cultured butter enthusiast and unofficial office dj, pre-pandemic.