I hope this finds you well and ready for another week of “challenges and opportunities.” I was recently asked to write an article on what we’ve seen from the perspective of independent sustainable agriculture, and the first thing that came to my mind was the differences in how people respond to stress. As a farmer working with other farmers, many of us are used to daily fire-fighting. Nature doesn’t follow schedules and routines are an unknown luxury. Early on I noticed a difference in how non-farming colleagues adapted, or struggled to do so. This is not to downplay the skills of those non-farmers—this is a uniquely challenging time—but more to celebrate the adaptability of farmers in catching what the world throws at them.
That said, there’s a lot coming right now. We’ve seen an increasing number of plant closures at the national level, a stark and powerful reminder of the importance of valuing worker health and safety. While the wonderful plants in our program are typically smaller and able to make independent management decisions, no one is immune from the challenges in front of us. The American Association of Meat Processors has put out some incredibly helpful information about managing COVID-19 in the workplace and prioritizing everyone’s health and safety, available here.
Hope and Reality
We got some news at the end of last week about the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury and Disaster Loan (EIDL) program—as you know we’ve been advocating for weeks for farmers to be included. The good: farmers are now eligible, thanks to Congressional action—and your calls, signatures, emails and pressure on social media. The not-so-good: the money isn’t there yet, the application is live, and what money is ultimately available will evaporate quickly—perhaps in a matter of days (more info here from the Progressive Farmer and here from Politico). Similarly with the new program from USDA meant to purchase farm products and get them to food banks–unfortunately this is geared toward large commodity suppliers and farmers will not see checks until the end of May at the earliest. Additionally there is a request to investigate the large beef suppliers for fraudulent activity around beef prices, where farmers were being paid less while consumers were paying more. This crisis is highlighting a lot of the imbalances we knew were there already.
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
We’ve been operating a donation-based initiative to provide farms’ products to food banks for over a week now, and are adding projects daily. We’re grateful to be able to be so nimble and appreciate all of our generous donors in making this possible. You can learn more about it here. One project in Washington state delivers eggs to a local community center and school where the majority of kids are on free or reduced priced lunch. From farmer April Thatcher of April Joy Farm: “I donated 13 dozen eggs today and I wasn’t even out of the parking lot before families were lining up to receive them from Staci at the Resource Center. There is such a big need.” AGW farmers everywhere are encouraged to participate if you’ve seen a drop in your normal markets and can help us manage the fundraiser; just get in touch or fill out the form here.
From Your Peers
Our farms continue to make the news for their innovation and resiliency. Check out these stories on a delivery service from Serendipity Farms in Michigan, adaptation at Callywood Farms in South Carolina, and online sales pivots at Blue Ledge Farm and Ice House Farm in Vermont. You can also see our newest farmer check-in on YouTube with Rinske de Jong of Working Cows Dairy in Alabama.
AGW Farmers: A note from your Outreach Coordinators
One principle of communications is your message gets further when people are already paying attention. Right now, the world is looking at how COVID-19 is impacting farms, and people want to hear about innovative things producers are doing and have done or are doing to adapt to changing markets. If you haven’t talked to your Farmer and Market Outreach Coordinator, they want to hear from you and would love to work with you to share your story. And not all of them are going to be upbeat but we can work with you to share your story. One story sent sales through the roof following a local TV segment. We recognize this isn’t possible everywhere, and we can’t promise sales—but we will do our best to help. And please, don’t hesitate to reach out for any reason or need—they’re always glad to hear from you.
We are focused on making sure our farmers and the sustainable livestock industry as a whole weather this crisis, so if there is anything we can do along those lines, please reach out to us.
With best wishes in the week ahead, and beyond,