By Alli Boedges
Everyone and their dog knows that coronavirus has had a large negative effect on most businesses in our country. One type of business that mainstream media has done a good job skipping over, however, is farming. How are our producers fairing through all of this?
It’s not only the stock market that has seen a disastrous fall recently, the cattle and grain markets are lower than they have been in years, leaving many farmers struggling to stay afloat. “The prices of everything are really terrible, and a lot of produce is being wasted, and the farmers aren’t making anything from it.” says Jeff Korman, an area farmer, when asked about what has been the biggest overall negative for him. “There was a 30% drop in cattle prices in March and April. That had a huge effect, but I am hopeful for a recovery.”
“Trying to market slaughter cattle is difficult, there are delays in the packing plants. And a huge backlog so you can’t get slaughter calf appointments.” says Ernst Uthlaut, in regards to his biggest issue. However, he feels that this will result in smaller butchers adapting to more in-flow, and making more money, and will be able to become larger in the near future. Possibly resulting in more local meat being sold more locally. I thought that was a really interesting side thought that I hadn’t heard before.
Day-to-day operations haven’t changed that much for many farmers, “I haven’t experienced much personal change, I still worked the same hours, saw the same co-workers, and visited the same small group of friends and family.” says Ben Holland, who works on a large hog farm.
On the bright side, having kids at home during all of this quarantining has allowed many family farms to get more work done, with extra hands to help out. Uthlaut has said, “The six month summer is pretty great! We are getting a lot done, the kids have learned a lot and put a lot into their farm.”
Korman seems to agree, saying, “Having the kids at home, instead of away, has been nice. We are spending more time together and I get more time with them.” However, I think that spending a lot of time with your kids can be wearing, “I love my kids to death, but they are going to school,” says Korman jokingly.
We are hopeful for a recovery this fall, but there is much uncertainty on that, leaving many hoping only for a recovery by next Spring. “Wondering when the markets will go back to normal has been one of the hardest things for me.” says Travis Pouliot, a newly established farmer.
“I think prices will start going up in the next six months,” says Holland.
Ernst says, “Economic recovery is going to take a long time. It will take a while to get back to where we were.”
The backbone of the American farmer is optimism, you can’t control the markets, or the weather, or stop your equipment from breaking down. You just have to hope that everything goes smoothly. “We are resilient and we are going to work through this. The seed has already been bought, we just have to put it in the ground and hope for the best.” says Korman.
“I wish people had more respect for the people that grow their food,” Holland. It always makes me sad to think how little people know about farming, and how little respect people have for the ones who are feeding them. Grocery stores don’t make food. Farmers do. And farming isn’t easy either. It’s long days, whether it is 100 degrees or 10. The cows need to be fed; even if it’s raining, or snowing, or ridiculously hot. The beans need to be planted, whether you feel good or not. The fence needs to be built, the sheep need to be moved, the corn needs to be shelled. I have rarely seen my parents take a day off, even when they are sick or injured. Never have I met someone who works harder than they do. Our producers put in a lot of work that no one sees. They don’t get featured on TV, or recognised for what they do.
“There is a lot more to farming than dirt and tractors,” says Travis Pouliot. I couldn’t agree more.
With the fall in all of the markets hitting farmers pretty hard, we are extremely hopeful to see recovery soon. But they never know what the future can hold, so all they can do is wait and see.