By Erin Schoenberg
As the coronavirus continues to spread and disrupt society, life on farms and ranches does not skip a beat. For many, it’s calving season. For others, seeds will soon be planted. Regardless of volatility, the rest of the year depends on these essential tasks.
Comfort can also be found by staying busy and productive in a time of increased stress. Rancher Deb Frank comments that while calving season can be an “unrelenting marathon,” this year it brings relief. She’s thankful for “good reasons to keep my mind off the virus and the ever-swirling cycle of bad news.”
Farmers and ranchers have an enduring ability to hang on through thick and thin, and adapt to ever-changing circumstances. Amidst the unsettling time of not knowing to what extent the full effects of COVID-19 will bring to supply chains, producers will work to dial in their systems, focus on making good decisions while strategizing for the long-term, and employ human creativity to full force.
Direct sales producers have seen increased interest from consumers concerned about a stable food supply. Products that have been taken for granted on year-round grocery store shelves are being given more consideration. Will this be a turning point for change in awareness and behavior? If so, change in consumer demand may dictate an equal change in production.
With food safety and shopper proximity on the mind, many people seek out regular shipments, pickups, or subscriptions direct from local farmers. Many others are expanding their own gardens, or starting seeds for the first time.
Shortening the food chain and strengthening the links can bring food security and peace of mind to consumers, and a welcome income for farmers whose livelihoods may be on the line.
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Erin Schoenberg is project associate for the Center for Rural Affairs. Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.