With the novel coronavirus disrupting food supply chains and skyrocketing unemployment, it has not been an easy few months for Utah’s farmers and ranchers, nor for residents who are already struggling with food insecurity. The Utah Farm Bureau Federation (UFBF), an independent, non-governmental organization of farm and ranch members, took note.
On May 7, UFBF launched the campaign Farmers Feeding Utah with the goal of raising funds to purchase products from struggling farmers and ranchers to give to various communities in-need across the Beehive State.
“Most of our commodities have fallen 30 – 50%, and it’s been a tremendous concern for us,” said Ron Gibson, UFBF board president and 5th generation dairy farmer in Weber County, citing the closure of restaurants and hotels due to COVID-19 as the reason for the disruption of the supply chain.
“We decided that if we could put together our Farmers Feeding Utah campaign and raise money to buy products from our farmers and ranchers and give those products to those in need, it would be a win-win for both groups,” added Gibson.
In less than three weeks, Farmers Feeding Utah had reached its first $150,000 donation goal and purchased meat from 1,000 processed sheep, 600 live sheep and 10,000 pounds of flour to give to the Navajo Nation in Southern Utah.
The Navajo Nation, which spans parts of Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, has been hit hard by COVID-19, and in mid-May, surpassed New York state for the highest infection rate in the country.
“The farmers are in panic mode and to be able to move that product is so special to them,” explains Gibson. “Last week we delivered live sheep [to the Navajo Nation] and passed them out one by one, and as our volunteers helped put them in their trucks, they were crying with tears running down. They were so happy to be able to receive these sheep. It’s awesome to be able to help on both sides of the spectrum.”
UFBF covered administrative costs so 100% of donations went directly to purchasing the product from the ranchers and farmers, while The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped fund some of the shipping costs. The initiative has received support and praise from Gov. Gary Herbert and the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food
Farmers Feeding Utah is now fundraising for its second “Miracle Project” with the goal of restocking the shelves of food pantries in Northern Utah with Utah-raised goods.
“Our dairy industry has been hit really hard and so has our cattle industry and our egg industry, so we’re going to purchase eggs, beef and a lot of cheese, butter and milk and work with the food pantries in Northern Utah that have empty shelves to stock them and really help the people that are in need,” explained Gibson.
As of June 9, Farmers Feeding Utah had raised $40,204 towards its $150,000 goal.
“We feel like it’s so important that we prop up our farmers and ranchers right now because they are a very, very essential part of our community. We don’t think that anybody should go hungry,” said Gibson. “Your donations to this will help us to create a miracle not only for agriculture but for those in need.”
To make a donation to Farmers Feeding Utah, visit their website.