Meeting Covid-19 Food Production Challenges by Increasing Consumer Education
When the unexpected trials of the Covid-19 hit Georgia, there were many challenges for both farmers and consumers concerning the food supply and availability of products on grocery store shelves. Two of the most notable shortages were beef products and milk. However, despite limited supplies in the store, producers were dumping milk that could not be picked up and meat processing plants were operating at severely reduced capacities due to virus outbreaks in employees. In addition, individuals, who now worked from home, had more time on their hands and a desire to be more involved in food production.
The impact of COVID-19 on this country was unprecedented in many ways. The closure of many businesses, restaurants, and community activities had an impact on prices of foodstuffs for consumers, the prices that farmers and producers received, and on the ability to transport products across the country. Because of this, dairymen across the country were forced to dump milk that there was no market for, while consumers were limited to how much milk they could buy in a store. In some areas, no ground beef was available in stores. As a result, the Morgan County Extension office had an increased volume of questions on why these issues with the food supply chain were occurring. Consumers became interested in buying their meat directly from a producer. In turn, this allowed the producer an outlet for cattle, which were not currently bringing good prices. The price decrease was due to a clogging of the supply chain, as processing plants were not able to maintain normal output with reduced staff. In addition, because of increased “at-home” time, many people were interested in learning to produce their own food.
In order to address the educational needs of those contacting the Extension office, the Agent worked with an Ameri-Corps Intern, and various Extension Specialists to create four fact sheets. These fact sheets, subtitled the “Extension 101 series”, gave concise answers to questions from producers and consumers. The fact sheets were entitled “So…You Want to Buy Your Meat Directly from a Farmer?”, “So... You Want to Raise Your Own Eggs?”, “Want to Grow Your Own Garden?”, and “What’s Up with Spilled Milk?”. The fact sheets provided succinct information that was no more than one page, front and back. This format made the fact sheets easy to share in a variety of different avenues. Because approximately 80% of Morgan County citizens do not have reliable internet access, these four fact sheets were distributed via hard copies at area feed and hardware stores as well as at the Madison Wal-Mart. These fact sheets were also made available online via the Morgan County Extension website and social media venues. Since publication, producers of the commodities listed above have asked for copies of these sheets to share with those who buy their products.
In addition to providing access to a hard copy of information for consumers, this allowed retailers to give their clientele valuable information on the products (vegetables, poultry, etc.) that they were buying. The reach that this information made via social media was extraordinary and spanned multiple counties across the state. The “Want to Grow Your Own Garden” publication reached over 2,405 people with 353 engagements and 57 combined reactions. The “So…You Want to Raise Your Own Eggs?” publication reached 1,659 people with 186 engagements, and 30 reactions. The “So…You Want to Buy Your Meat Directly from a Farmer?” publication reached 632 people, and had 72 engagements as well as being published by “The Bleat”, a small ruminant newsletter with a circulation of 1,200 individuals. “What’s Up with Spilled Milk?” reached 2,745 with 229 engagements and 25 reactions and several out of state readers. This publication was also shared in the Georgia Milk Producer’s email newsletter with a circulation of 800. These publications provided a way to use hybridized methods to disseminate information to producers and consumers alike.
- Year: 2020
- Geographic Scope: Multi-State/Regional
- County: Morgan
- Location: College Station, Athens
- Agriculture & Natural Resources
- Bohlen, Jillian
- Moon, Jay
- Partain, Hailey R
- Pittman, Gregory
- Stelzleni, Alexander
- Westerfield, Robert