County Farm Bureau members across the state have volunteerism in their veins, and many have jumped at the opportunity to help their communities cope with the unique challenges of the COVID-19 crisis.
One such couple is Jamie and Rema Loudon, high school teachers and Farm Bureau members in Brown County. Jamie is an FFA teacher at Georgetown and Rema is an English teacher at Western Brown.
They also are two of several volunteers who have kept the Helping Hands food pantry in Georgetown staffed and open for those who count on it.
“We knew we had the time and we like to give back,” said Rema, who noted that she sees 20-30 families every Tuesday morning when she and her husband volunteer. “They are very appreciative of what we’re doing. It’s extremely rewarding to be able to do this.”
What they’re doing is stepping up to help when the pantry’s regular volunteer work force could not. Many are older and more vulnerable to the coronavirus, so they are protecting their health the best they can by staying home.
Ohio Farm Bureau’s Heather Utter, who is organization director for Brown, Adams, Clermont and Highland counties, said Farm Bureau volunteers have filled about 20 hours a week at the pantry. The first week of May, they also donated a gallon of milk to each family when they picked up their groceries.
From coordinating milk and meat donations with local food banks to making sure a scheduled school ag day happens virtually, county Farm Bureau members have thought outside the box to continue serving their communities.
Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau teamed up with Tuscarawas County Dairy Farmers to distribute 6,600 gallons of milk to families of children in the county who were receiving food from local school districts. The effort was spearheaded by New Philadelphia dairy farmer Charlie Finton who worked with Walmart to secure the donations.
Noble County made a monetary donation for the sack lunch program in its county, while Erie County Farm Bureau helped out Second Harvest in Lorain County by donating chocolate milk, butter and cottage cheese.
Most of these endeavors involve county Farm Bureaus working in conjunction with local partners, as they do on a regular basis.
Locally grown, locally donated
When Marion County Farm Bureau’s annual Farmer’s Care Breakfast was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hord Family Farms’ pork donation that was going to be served at the breakfast was already processed and needed a place to go.
“In the spirit of the original event, the Hords and area farmers showed how much they care for their communities by donating the pork to St. Vincent de Paul Society food pantry in Marion,” said Organization Director Abra Dunn for Marion, Crawford, Morrow and Richland counties.
In Knox County, board members worked with Case Farms Chicken to connect local growers with churches that help feed the county. Kayla Jones, organization director for Knox, Coshocton, Holmes and Licking counties, said, in all, 600 pounds of chicken was donated. Farm Bureau actively carried out its commitment to serving farmers and the community by allocating funds to purchase chicken for Knox County Hot Meals programs.
“These programs operate on limited funds and resources, so they are always thankful for donations and volunteer help. By purchasing chicken from Case Farms, the company that several Knox County farm families grow poultry for, Farm Bureau was able to help get food from farm to table in homes of many senior citizens in our county,” said Kim Hawk, Farm Bureau board of trustees member and local Case Farms grower.
Having received a suggestion from the national office of Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry that an attempt should be made to help meet the current needs of local food banks, Kathi Albertson, the local coordinator, went to the Guernsey County Farm Bureau for help. She asked for suggestions as to how to purchase discounted meat from local farmers. Members of the board sprang into action. The result was the donation of a steer and hog to FHFH, which will pay for the processing and packaging of the meat to be given to the Grace Food Pantry.
In Portage County, three steers were processed to donate to the Center of Hope, and in Mahoning and Columbiana counties, $12,000 of beef, pork and poultry were donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank.
Donations to the local county Farm Bureau to help defer the costs of meat processing that is intended for local food banks are important during this time, said Lindsay Shoup, organization director for Ashland, Medina, Summit and Wayne counties.
“Processing is expensive and sometimes can cost more than the animal is worth,” she said.
Ag in the virtual classroom
Beyond food and monetary donations, other Farm Bureaus have been active keeping students and counties engaged in agriculture.
“We have been working on our multicounty ‘virtual’ ag day,” said Kim Harless, organization director for Jackson-Vinton, Scioto and Pike counties. “We have 46 video presentations from farmers, OSU Extension, OARDC, FFA teachers and students and SWCD. The videos are not perfect by any means, but my volunteers and partners all jumped on board so we could bring this to all our second-grade students in Jackson-Vinton, third-grade students in Pike County and fourth-grade students in Scioto counties.”
These initiatives from county Farm Bureaus statewide are just the tip of the iceberg. To get involved or offer assistance, contact the local county Farm Bureau and ask how to lend a hand.