OPINION  I have a strong admiration for all our essential workers. I realize the list is long but the people who keep this country going really are heroes. Obviously I have an extreme soft spot for our farmers. I come from a farming family and am surrounded through professional and personal relationships with those who raise animals and work the land.

It’s painful to talk to “my people” right now because they are hurting.

Many farmers have been asked to dispose of their products. Some have been told to reduce what they’re producing because of limits within the food chain. I’ve heard of those who directly sell to consumers being so overwhelmed they aren’t sure where to turn. Mostly I’ve heard the voices that are usually optimistic and “up for the challenge” sound so beat up, they want to quit.

“Why work so hard to lose money?”

“This is all I have ever wanted to do; why am I being punished for going after my dreams?”

“Why would you even ask how it’s going? It’s going terrible.”

“I don’t want our children to see how much we are struggling.”

“I enjoy farming. I don’t enjoy the stress it puts on me and my family.”

Those are statements I’ve heard from farmers in the past few weeks. I work in public relations. I have had the term “politically correct” thrown at me many times stating that I slanted it just right to make it sound better.

Sending the correct message on behalf of agriculture is important to me. But I can’t make those statements sound better. I can’t sugar-coat or slant them any way to make this reality easier to digest.

I’d even go so far to say it’s not the time to be politically correct. It’s time to be authentic and real.

The reality is our farmers need our help. We need the world to listen. We need leaders at all levels who will take time to sit and hear the concerns of the foundation of our food-supply chain. We need our communities to rally around those who have supported them, for in some cases hundreds of years.

I don’t believe it’s right for the people who grow and raise our food, to be the ones eaten.

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau is fighting for farmers. I know many other organizations and individuals are too. But it’s not enough. We are a small group of people who have a big job.

Researcher Brene Brown has said there can’t be courage without vulnerability. I commend the farmers who are being honest right now and sharing their stories with those around them. By showing vulnerability they are being courageous. We need more farmers to speak up and talk about the weight they’re carrying.

It’s difficult to do, but share your story and your struggles. Through the #FightingForFarmers campaign we’re hopeful we can spread the word about the impact COVID-19 is having on farmers. We must communicate the struggles to our customers so they too can help in fighting for farmers.

Amy Eckelberg of Deforest, Wisconsin, is the director of communications for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau. She was raised on her family’s dairy farm near New London in Waupaca County, Wisconsin. As an active member of the Sandy Knoll 4-H club, she grew up showing hogs and dairy animals at the Waupaca County Fair.