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COVID-19 not all bad for locally sold produce, meat

Missouri farmers say the COVID-19 Pandemic has not been all bad for agriculture.

Coronavirus has pushed consumers from one area of the market to others according to Three Spring Farms co-owner, Bryan Meyers.

“Grocery stores are doing well, direct to consumer is doing well, catering and restaurants? Not doing well,” he said.

Meyers said the Perryville farm, which raises cattle, pigs, chickens and seasonal produce, does most of their wholesale business through a St. Louis grocery store allowing them steady access to the wholesale market during the pandemic.

Katie Nixon from Green Gate Family Farms in Wheatland, Missouri said not all farmers were as fortunate.

“Farmers who had a wholesale market saw it vanish, evaporate in a matter of a day,” she said. “While it could still return, and will return eventually, they’re still wondering and we’re still wondering how big it’s going to be, what the demand is going to be.”

The owner of Circle B Ranch in Rogersville, Missouri, Marina Backes, said she was one of those farmers.

“I would say 90% of our business was restaurants, you know wholesale to restaurants, that just shut down totally,” Backes said.

She said the change was not all bad for her pig farm. The pandemic has led consumers to increase local and online shopping, creating a huge spike in online sales for Backes and others. Nixon said Green Gate Family Farms started out going to farmer’s markets in the Kansas City area but had recently stopped attending markets, also moving their business online.

“I feel like we’ve been preparing for this moment inadvertently for a little while,” she said.

Cheryl Schneider is a partner at Schneider farms in Hermann, Missouri. She said her farm has had roughly a 25% boost in local and other direct farm to consumer sales due to the pandemic.

“We’ve definitely seen increased interest, even from local customers who’ve typically, probably, have not bought from us have now been seeking us out and looking to buy product from us,” Schneider said.

While she believes some of the new customers will drop off, Schneider said she expects many of those customers to continue buying long-term. But, a large increase in local demand and virus-related meat processing closures has caused a new set of problems especially for cattle and hogs.

“They’ve (processers) really been booked up as more people are now wanting, you know, that local product, and as more farms are now selling direct to customers,” she said.

Schneider said she has reserved processing slots as far out as December 2021.

Nixon said she hopes consumers see the value in supporting local farmers.

“I’m excited for consumers that get to discover the taste of a real tomato for the first time, if they are just getting into the local food scene,” Nixon said.

Bryan Meyers Interview
Katie Nixon Interview
Marina Backes Interview
Cheryl Schneider Interview

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