Livestock piling up. Meat counters emptying...
Have you ever had your washer breakdown? It’s a real pain, and can cause a real issue around the house.
Finding someone to fix it is tough - skilled labor is hard to come by.
While you’re waiting, the laundry doesn’t stop coming. Everyone in the house keeps sending more your way. But without the washer - you’re stuck. There’s literally no where for the clothes to go.
Meanwhile, with huge piles of clothes stacking up on one side, clean clothes are becoming pretty scarce. Everyone in the house is wearing their jeans multiple times and getting nervous as they watch their underwear drawer slowly empty out...
This is what’s happening in our meat industry right now. Instead of washers and laundry it’s packing plants and livestock.
Many packing plants have been forced to shut down or run at lowered capacity because of Covid outbreaks and sick employees. Enough that it has created a massive backup on one side.
But just because the washer is broke doesn’t mean the animals stop coming.
Producers are doing all sorts of things to try and slow down animals getting ready and hold animals over longer. But the entire system - a system built to bring the fresh meat the consumer expects - was made to keep moving. And right now there is a massive roadblock.
We could talk for days about IF the process should work this way. And we should definitely have that conversation soon.
But right now, THIS IS the system we have, and the system we have to work with to get through.
Animals are lining up on one side while processed meat is becoming scarce on the other. You can understand how this leads to a devaluing of live animals for farmers at the same time consumers see increased prices at the store for meat.
President Trump has ordered the plants open, but there are still major hurdles to work through to make that happen.
In the meantime, you might see and hear some scary things. You might see temporary shortages in the store. You might hear about animals being euthanized. You might even see proof of this on social media. (I’m sorry if you have to see that. It’s not easy for farmers either.)
Here’s what I have faith in:
1. Our livestock farmers are doing everything in their power to handle this situation as best they can. They are the very best at animal welfare and husbandry, and those values will guide them. There is no rule book for this.
2. The processors and the government have recognized the problem and are moving to get it corrected. Whether you agree with the current system or not, it’s the system we have right now and we need to work with it for the time being.
3. Food - safe, quality food - will get to the store.
In the meantime, panic and hoarding will not help.
Find a farmer to buy from. This isn’t possible for a vast majority of urban and suburban families, but if you can, take advantage of that now. This isn’t about fearing grocery story food (we are actually the farmers that raise some of that). It’s about alternative supply routes.
Pray. For our farmers who are hurting and struggling. Farmers raise animals to feed people - not to be discarded like waste. The emotional toll of this is real.
Pray for the people who have to work to keep the packing plants open. For the truck drivers, the grocery store employees. For our leaders, our government employees, and anyone making decisions. It takes thousands of people to keep our food supply accessible, safe and affordable. Pray for all those people working in uncharted territory to make that happen.
Finally, take a few minutes to respect the complexity of the situation and refrain from offering judgement that is unfounded.
Ready or not?
Ready! This field is actually ready to plant, once the time is right of course. It will be planted to soybeans this year.
If you think of tilled up soil, free of any debris when you picture farm fields waiting to be planted, you aren’t picturing our fields.
Our fields are strategically left just like this - crop residue on top, growing cover crop (that’s triticale you see growing) and never tilled.
This is one part of our conservation strategy that helps us, among many other things, reduce erosion (soil loss due to wind or rain).
Some farms could see over 500 pounds of soil loss per acre from a single rain event.*
500 pounds per acre. From one rain.
Practices like no-till and cover crops can shrink soil loss to closer to 50 pounds per acre on a similar rain event.*
Minimizing erosion doesn’t just help with the obvious (keeping dirt where we need it) but it helps with the less obvious like reducing runoff of our nutrients and improving water quality in the areas surrounding our farms.
This is modern crop farming. This is sustainability in action.
*Data sourced from Edge of Field Water Quality Monitoring Program, administered by Missouri Corn and Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, in partnership with Missouri Department of Natural Resources and USDA-NRCS.
Can I just say something? Something about “all this time.”
For some of us, a lot of us, there is no “all this time”.
My news feed. My email inbox. My well meaning relatives and friends keep reminding me of what I should be doing with “all this time”.
Finding things to be grateful for.
Making time more simplistic.
Learning a new language.
Learning a new skill.
Taking an online class.
Cleaning the house.
Teaching kids life skills and baking and arts and crafts and pottery.
This pandemic has changed nearly everything. But it has not, I repeat, HAS NOT, added minutes to the day or days to the weeks.
So many normal things still have to be done.
Working. Cooking. Cleaning.
So many new things have to be done.
Teaching. Entertaining. Counseling. Extra trips to the store because you can’t ever get what you need in a single trip.
Washing hands, washing door handles. Wiping down phones. Wiping down keyboards. Wiping down wipes.
Worrying. Telling others not to worry. Worrying about your kids seeing you worry.
Conference calls. So many conference calls.
For some of us, there is no “all this time”. So as much as I hear you telling me I should be grateful, and thankful and making memories and speaking French, I just can’t.
Not right now. (Not ever on the French thing.)
If you’re out there, just trying to keep your head above water and feeling guilty because at the end of the day it feels like no progress was made but your body is dog tired, I’m with you.
I get you. I am you.
And hear me - we will get through this. We may not come out the other side with cleaner houses, smarter kids or new skills, but we will get through this.
I am not minimizing the REAL battles many are fighting with losing income, being sick, having family members sick, or being on the front lines of fighting this thing. I always pray that by sharing my own struggles it helps other in the same situation feel less alone and that it never minimizes someone else’s, often much more challenging, situation.
(P.S. My kindergartener took the picture so that is some sort of life skill he can use at some point... )
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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