It seems COVID-19 has changed our lives forever.
Mister Rogers provides us comfort with this quote. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Similar to looking for the helpers, I encourage us to find the good coming from COVID-19. The good news in agriculture starts here.
Nationwide as of April 21, McDonald’s is serving free Happy meals to first responders and front-line workers during the coronavirus outbreak. That’s more burgers, cheese and French fries (potatoes!) moving through the supply chain.
Closer to home, the New Glarus FFA Alumni purchased 128 gallons of milk from New Glarus Dairy. The milk was delivered to every New Glarus family that is receiving meals from the school district.
“We hope that this gesture will help our local dairy farms as well as the families who receive it,” said one of the organizers.
Many FFA chapters and FFA Alumni groups throughout the state are helping farmers by purchasing product to distribute dairy products and available products to families in need.
On May 1, the Waupun FFA and FFA Alumni in partnership with a donation from Vita Plus gave away 2,000 pounds of cheese and sausage to area residents.
Organizers explained, that local farmers including dairy, beef and pork producers have lost markets for their products including milk, cheese, beef, pork, etc., with restaurants, schools and convention centers closed. If through generous donations, more products come off the shelves of stores, the supply chain can keep moving and get products directly into the hands of consumers until the hospitality industry can start again.
Starting in March, the owners of Sassy Cow Creamery in Columbus, started keeping a ‘Kindness Cooler’ outside of the store stocked with milk and other dairy products. It is available to anyone in need of milk and will be fully stocked until the end of the pandemic.
“My three daughters got the idea after being home from school,” said Sassy Cow owner James Baerwolf. “They had time on their hands and were looking for ways to help the community.”
Owners of Graetz Mfg., Inc., in Pound, know the importance of the dairy and agriculture industries and the products and services that it offers.
To support local farmers, owners of Graetz Mfg. have surprised their employees with local products including a loaf of homemade bread from a local farmer, a gallon of milk, a pound of cheese curds from Springside Cheese and a dozen of eggs.
Farm Bureau members in District 4 (Buffalo County, Eau Claire County, Jackson County, La Crosse County, Monroe County and Trempealeau County) created a local producer shopping guide to support local businesses.
“Now, more than ever, is a great time to get to know your local farmers,” added one of the organizers.
In District 8, or central Wisconsin, Farm Bureau members are partnering with other groups and organizations, for example:
- Marathon County Farm Bureau is partnering with the greater Wausau alumni and Marathon County Partnership for Productive Agriculture to provide cheese to school families in Wausau.
- Wood County Farm Bureau sponsored dairy products for the Auburndale and Pittsville FFA Alumni’s school meal programs.
- District 8 ladies luncheon group are partnering with Marathon County and Taylor County Extension to organize ‘coffee chats.’
- District 8 County Farm Bureaus are working on their own emergency response program to help local farmers who are affected by COVID-19, fires, storms and other disasters.
- District 8 County Farm Bureaus are rallying and starting the Ripple Effect Program. County Farm Bureau directors call members to see how they are doing and then encourage that member to call another member and see how they are doing to help everyone stay connected.
In District 1, or the southeast part of the state, farmers are planting crops despite the economy and uncertainty if they will be paid for their crops when it comes time to harvest.
- Jefferson County Young Farmers and Agriculturists hosted a zoom YFA Trivia Night.
- Kewaskum FFA members delivered donuts and a dairy strong yard signs to farmers.
- Slinger FFA members are selling dairy strong yard signs and using the profits to donate dairy products to local food pantries.
- Members of the Ozaukee County Farm Bureau and Ozaukee County Dairy Promotion partnered to donate money to local food pantries so they could purchase dairy products.
- Washington County Farm Bureau members donated $2,500 in cheese to local food pantries.
- Jefferson County Farm Bureau members donated money to the Jefferson County food pantries for the purchase of dairy products.
And the good news doesn’t end there. More county Farm Bureaus are stepping up to help their communities during this time. Read more about county Farm Bureau activities here.
Stay tuned in for more good news.
Marian Viney is a member of the public relations team with Wisconsin Farm Bureau. She is an active member in her community serving in a variety of roles on the school board, within her church and other organizations. Marian and her husband, Doug, live in Belleville with their three sons, Matthew, Michael and Benjamin.