With the current pandemic, the CFA Board and Staff have been thinking deeper about the impacts this is having on those that CFA serves and the food and farm system we all deeply value. The nature of CFA’s work is collaboration, we work across rural and urban communities supporting pieces of the value chain to create a better food and farm system. This pandemic is impacting each part of the value chain including producers, farmworkers, consumers, food distribution centers, restaurants, food service workers, and so many more. With your help, we are working to identify the most immediate needs and finding resources to meet those needs. I am very grateful that CFA’s long-time funding partners have also reached out to ask how they can help. While CFA may not be able to meet the needs of every part of the value chain, we are starting with farmers.
A friend and mentor said the other day, “What is this moment asking of us?” I have taken that to heart as each of us struggles to comprehend the impact on our daily lives, but also what will the impact be six months or a year from now.
CFA has always worked on maintaining or strengthening the public safety nets that farmers and their communities rely upon, whether those are support systems for farmers alone, or food and health systems for us all.
This pandemic has clearly shown that the current safety nets are inadequate, even before the current attempts to dismantle them. For the last ten years, in a supposed time of prosperity, America has failed to build resiliency. The logical approach would have been to build or rebuild social and economic infrastructure, paying down debt, and building reserves; just ask any family farmer how they manage the inevitable ups and downs of agriculture.
Like 9/11, this pandemic will change everything. Looking down the road, we have to ask “What will the new social contract be, What do the people of this country expect from our government?” Even in this daily crisis, now is the time to ask these questions, to prepare, and then be ready to act.
Local farms everywhere are being hit with declines in sales which are impacting their bottom line and leading to farmworker lay-offs. Farmers markets are adapting to support farmers in creative ways and provide consumers with access to fresh, local safe food. Some of our favorite local restaurants are temporarily closing or only providing curbside to encourage social distancing. We are seeing consumption rates increase tremendously within grocery stores on necessary products because fear has folks concerned about having enough supplies to survive. This spike, partnered with the shortage of labor is putting a deeper strain on our low-income families who are already struggling to put food on their tables.
We are thinking deeper about what this moment is asking of us, and frankly, it feels like currently, everything is changing so rapidly. We have to take a breath and find a steady pace within ourselves. Individually, this moment is calling us to take care of one another and consider greatly where we live and what we value about the communities we live in. We are being called to ban together and find short and long term solutions to this crisis. During this time, we are being called to evaluate and address the social and economic systems that are in place that inhibit the most vulnerable of us to gain our footing, when they are supposed to support us in the time of need.
CFA has been working hard to keep the momentum from our annual meeting moving we have been in Frankfort advocating for farmers and consumers, we are currently tracking what we need to support and get information out about. If you have a question, concern, or a resource about the impacts of COVID-19 on Kentucky’s food and farm system please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here for you. To stay up to date on your own, we recommend following the pandemic on govstatus.egov.com/kycovid19.
Lastly, during this time of uncertainty, we want to share resources that may be helpful as we navigate the short and long term impressions of this crisis.
A quick list of thoughts and recommendations:
- Social distancing is not a trend; it’s vital to a quicker national recovery. If you can work from home, we encourage it regardless of age so that we flatten the curve. Tips for working at home can be found here.
- Local food is more nutritious, has fewer food miles, and farmers markets are less crowded than grocery stores. Support your immune system, buy local. If your market is still open, here’s a link to our farmers market map to find a market near you.
- Farmers still have products regardless of the space to sell them in. Contact local farmers in your area for direct purchasing of products. Find a list of Kentucky Proud Producers here, and check out the OAK Directory to locate producers near you.
- Cooking at home can be fun. Here’s a list of 50 winter recipes, some that you can substitute local ingredients in. Accept it as a challenge to try something new.
- Support local businesses by purchasing curbside or buying gift cards to use at a later date. Using the gift cards could be something to look forward to once this settles or could even be placed back as gifts for the holidays.
- Food pantries currently are well stocked, however, they are in desperate need of volunteers. Please consider volunteering at a food pantry near you.
- Avoid buying grocery products with a WIC label (unless of course, you receive WIC benefits). Please reserve these products for WIC customers only– they are the only items approved for WIC customers.
- We have a list of resources from various organizations, friends, and allies across the nation that are focused on the food and farm system. Including a Farmers Market COVID-19: Best Practices page. We will continue to update it as frequently as we can.
Martin Richards, Executive Director