Over the past few months, people in the agriculture sector have had to handle sudden and significant disruption, including loss of markets and income as restaurants, pubs, and caterers closed and lack of workforce due to lockdown and self-isolation. Farmers are also experiencing transport and regulatory challenges coming from new supply chain expectations.
Thus, supporting people in the agriculture industry during this unprecedented period is essential. Here are five ways to help:
1. Support local farmers and farm initiatives
Many farmers have started selling their products through online platforms even if they had not done it previously. Buy from them online and continue to purchase from local shops and markets if they are still open. In case of any delay, bear with them because they are trying to adjust to the new changes and meet a high level of demand that they may not have expected. Several signposting organizations have developed an online database to include small-scale farmers, wineries, dairies, bakeries, and retail stores that can sell directly to consumers.
Besides, ensure you buy local. By buying foods produced in your area, you will support local farmers who rely on agriculture as their primary source of income. Join a CSA or interact with a farmer in your neighborhood. This way, farmers will focus on growing and delivering high-quality and fresh vegetables.
Volunteering skills and time can be invaluable. When people provide their skills, farmers can dedicate their efforts and time towards nurturing the land. You can volunteer at a local farmer’s market. Volunteers play a crucial role in helping farmers’ markets to run smoothly, from unloading farm trucks to answering questions at information booths. Contact a local farmer’s market to enquire about such opportunities.
Consider giving to organizations that support young farmers and economically viable organic farming. Contributing to organizations, such as the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, allows farmers to implement sustainable farming practices that use innovations in science and technology. Or support agents who speak up for farmers in national and local political arenas.
4. Introduce modern farming techniques
Although agriculture is the backbone of most economies globally, outdated tools and traditional farming techniques hold farmers back. Participate in training that teaches workers how to use and maintain farm machineries, such as silage processors and mill rolls. Also, rent out machines, if you have any, to your local farmers. Modern farming techniques will not only reduce labor requirements but also increase yields.
5. Shop at farm stands and farmers markets
Instead of waiting for the farm to come to you, go to the farm. Farm stands refer to onsite stores that sell products grown or produced on the farm. Some farms do not have them, so ensure you call ahead to confirm.
Various communities have taken different approaches with their farmer’s markets. Some have switched to pick-up only, while others may cancel or postpone their markets. Some are still holding them, taking extra steps to guarantee safety. These steps have included implementing measures such as setting up vendors far apart, requiring customers to wear disposable gloves, and sanitizing scales after weighing produce. Several markets have done away with free samples, while others have placed bottles of hand sanitizers on tables.
If the farmer’s market is still taking place in your community, ensure you buy from them, as many local farmers rely on the farmer’s market as their sole source of income to keep their operations running. Buying at a farmers’ market means you can buy from various farms in one place. You can get in without an idea of what you want and walk out with fresh vegetables, just-laid eggs, and new dinner plans.
People in the agriculture sector have a vested interest in the community, and they put their income back into the economy. By supporting them, you will enable them to cope with the new challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic and revive the economy.