Lauren Baer: September update

“Where have all the people gone?” I have continued to get this question that I’m sure you have asked – or been asked – related to workforce shortages. In our organizations we feel it daily. A recent article from Fortune caught my eye: Where have all the workers gone? Long COVID has forced as many as 4 million people out of the workforce. According to a report by Brookings, “around 16 million working-age Americans (those aged 18 to 65) have long COVID today” with over a quarter of that population being impacted at work as a result of their disability. These are compelling numbers that provide an additional perspective to today’s workforce issues that have been largely pinned on “The Great Resignation.”

So, how are we supporting our disabled workforce? Is what we are doing to achieve disability inclusion and equity enough? For those experiencing long COVID and its impact, we can start by reviewing our practices around accommodations and leave, evaluating opportunities for flexibility at work, and equipping our leaders to support this impacted part of the workforce. But we should also continue to place great emphasis on accessibility in the workplace for all disabled people. Where in our processes, policies, and approaches are we being inclusive and where are we limiting access and creating barriers? We must continue to ask this question and act if we want to build an inclusive and diverse workforce for agriculture and food. Speaking of acting, I found this toolkitpublished by the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) an innovative approach to making hybrid workplaces more inclusive through the use of accessible extended reality (XR).

Do you have thoughts on this or, like me, more questions? I’d love to hear from you at

Lauren Baer
Executive Director, Together We Grow

This message was included in Together We Grow’s September newsletter. Subscribe to the monthly newsletter.

Kristin Kirkpatrick, Executive Director, Together We Grow

Kristin Kirkpatrick is the Executive Director for Together We Grow and the Center for an Enhanced Workforce in Agribusiness, located at Colorado State University. In this role, Kristin works alongside a consortium of many of the world’s largest agribusiness interests, including members of industry, non-governmental organizations, higher education, and government institutions. Together We Grow is focused on building a skilled, diverse, and inclusive agricultural workforce that can power the innovation needed to feed the future.   

Kristin has always had a passion for systems change that creates more equitable opportunities and has done this work through the lenses of public health, policy advocacy, and community development. Most recently, she helped lead Kimbal Musk’s national nonprofit Big Green, which integrates food literacy education into school curriculums across the country.

Kristin has been an instructor with the Colorado School of Public Health at CSU and served as Chief of Wellness Planning for Bellisimo Development Inc., helping lead the master planning, design, and actualization of the award-winning Bucking Horse and landmark Jessup Farm projects in Fort Collins, Colo. She earned a bachelor’s degree in health and exercise science from CSU and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Colorado.