An American Farm Bureau Federation study points out that consumer spending for food at grocery stores increased 27%, since the end of March, while food purchased at restaurants declined 25%. This switch in where food is consumed could impact farmers in the Four Corners Region who depend on sales to restaurants. However, Beth LaShell, Fort Lewis College, Old Fort at Hesperus Coordinator points out that demand for local agricultural products is robust. She expects that meat sales at the Old Fort Country Store and the Fort Lewis Farm Stand will be 50% higher than a year ago. But farmers who usually sell to restaurants are hedging their bets by ramping up direct sales to consumers through offering pickup opportunities and deliveries and planning sales at farmers markets. LaShell reports that some of the restaurants that have closed in Durango, have received loans through the Federal Paycheck Protection Program, so they’re continuing to pay their staff, while encouraging these furloughed workers to volunteer to help local farmers complete their spring field work.
Reports of finished hogs being euthanized is discouraging for both pork producers and consumers who are finding meat cases short of pork in some parts of the country. U.S. House Agricultural Committee Chairman, Colin Peterson noted that 160,000 hogs per day are now being euthanized because of the lack of capacity at slaughter plants. But this problem might change if farmers, ranchers and state governments were allowed to solve the problem. For example, a rancher who sells beef locally suggested to me that the USDA should set up mobile facilities to slaughter hogs, chill them in refrigerated trucks, and utilize butcher shop located in many grocery stores in rural towns to break the carcasses down into retail cuts. In Iowa, government leaders have launched a “Pass the Pork” program to connect Iowa pig farmers with food-insecure residents. Through this program, the Iowa Pork Producers Assn. and the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship are helping pork producers donate pigs to the Iowa food bank feeding programs. Local meat processors are extending their hours of operation to process and package the pork donations to help meet a growing demand for food bank and food pantry resources.
Some other folks are taking an alternate course to food security. Game and fish agencies from Minnesota to New Mexico have reported an increase in hunting license sales, this spring. For example, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources saw a 28% jump in turkey license sales during the first week of the season.
The New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service has unveiled “Seed to Supper” a program for residents who are interested in planting a home garden. Participants can get free seeds and gardening guidance online and through a paper booklet. The purpose of the program is to provide participating families with educational opportunities and fresh produce this summer.
The Colorado Farm Bureau is asking the USDA to make a disaster declaration for fruit growing counties on Colorado’s Western Slope. Growers are looking at huge losses after temperatures dropped to a record low of 19 degrees on the April 13th, which killed most of the new buds on fruit trees. Bruce Talbott, a grower and president of the Mesa County Farm Bureau reported that the freeze took out about 90% of his family’s potential peach orchard production.
Renowned basketball coach Jon Wooden said, “Focus on what you can control, and do it to the best of your abilities.”