There is no hiding from COVID-19. This virus has no borders and travels at will, menacing people and businesses in every sector of society. The pandemic threatens agriculture and with it our food security, as farmers work to produce the food on our tables. Our farmers, producers, and those making their living off the land are working relentlessly for all of us, and we thank them for their leadership and sacrifice.
We have witnessed creativity at our farmers markets. The markets are providing fresh food in a new format. We have hit pause on the social events, but these markets have transformed into simple food hubs, providing a tremendous service to shoppers while implementing safe practices. We thank Vermonters who are supporting these markets by choosing to buy local and support neighbors. We look forward to more markets opening this spring and summer.
Despite recent successes in the local food scene, many of our farmers are nervous, and at times terrified, of the economic forecasts.
The region’s dairy farmers and cheesemakers are bracing for the worst as summer arrives. We hope the predictions are wrong, but milk pricing forecasts are formidable, dropping overnight. This sobering news means that more than ever we will need to do all we can to support our farmers. Now is the time to buy Vermont dairy. Every bit helps. Buy more milk, cheese, butter, yogurt. There is plenty.
The private sector is stepping up to help dairy farmers. Through a generous donation by the Vermont Community Foundation, milk and yogurt is being processed and donated to the Vermont Foodbank, helping dairy farmers as well as people who need food. This milk may have been discarded but instead it is ending up on the dinner table. We thank Commonwealth Dairy, Dairy Farmers of America-St.Albans, Hood, and the Foodbank for putting this program together.
We thank all those who have kept agriculture moving during uncertain times. Parts of our nation are facing deep disruption in meat processing, but Vermont’s plants are open, delivering high quality chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, and pork to Vermonters.
Thanks to those farmers who are delivering food through farm stands and CSAs, and the Vermonters who are buying our fresh, quality products. This is another way to shop for local food and support your community. You also can order Vermont products online, which offers a safe and easy way to support those who face an uncertain future.
And finally, to our farmers: we know you are hurting. The Agency of Agriculture is doing its best to get you the information and resources you need to make difficult decisions. Please visit the COVID-19 page on our website. There are federal, state, and private programs that might help you.
It will take all of us pulling in the same direction to get through this.
Written by Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food & Markets