While a significant portion of the world was halted due to the coronavirus, an undersung community persevered to keep food on the table.
They are farmers, and Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) is seeking to recognize them for their efforts through its #StillFarming awareness campaign.
As part of the campaign, Grayson County farmer Brad Green and KFB Federation First Vice President Eddie Melton sat down for a phone interview on the impact farmers have had on their communities throughout the coronavirus shutdown.
According to Green, who raises cattle, corn, soybeans, and tobacco, operating through the COVID-19 pandemic has been business as usual for the most part.
“The job’s got to be done,” he said. “We get up every morning and go do it.”
Green said the biggest issue he has faced has been the availability of parts and supplies, but when he learned that the pandemic would be making its way locally, he began contacting his suppliers early to ensure he would not be without something he needed.
Green credits growing up in a multi-generational farming family for his successful perseverance through and preparation for COVID-19.
“We’re just going to keep on keeping on,” he said. “This isn’t the first obstacle farmers have overcome. Farmers face obstacles on a daily basis; something as simple as a machinery breakdown or a sick animal.”
Melton said that assisting farmers in need has been one of KFB’s primary objectives throughout the pandemic. Among its efforts was contacting the Department of Labor to waive agriculture suppliers’ need for their drivers to garner temporary CDL licenses, thus ensuring products would continue to be shipped and delivered.
“Our ag industry and rural communities are what make Kentucky what it is,” Melton said, of the importance of supporting farmers.
According to Melton, even in the face of hardships, “farmers are the eternal optimists,” always wanting to grow and produce something and looking ahead to a better year next year when times are tough.
“It’s encouraging for me for young people like Brad to get out there and risk it all,” he said. “There is a lot of risk you take in planting a crop.”
Green said the general public does not realize the risk involved with operating a farm and what is at stake should it fail.
“Not only our work, but the generations before us,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here today if not for the generations of my family prior to me.”
Green’s 13-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter recently invested their own money to rent a farming property, and he hopes they will carry on his family’s farming tradition that has persisted for seven generations.
Yet, while times have been difficult throughout the pandemic, brighter days appear to be ahead.
Melton said that, in the last three to four weeks, China has been “aggressively buying” corn and soybeans, improving the prices of grain products at a time when most grain farmers are harvesting their crops.
This, coupled with the federal government’s coronavirus incentive programs have helped bridge the gap in lost income, he said.
Additionally, Green said there has been a movement in which younger people desire to know where their food comes from, which has resulted in more business at the local level among farmer’s markets, as well as people buying animals directly from farmers to have them processed themselves.
“The thing that keeps me going is seeing young guys and ladies stay on the farm...and keep the family farm going,” Melton said. “Most farms in Kentucky are family farms. I don’t know of many corporate farms in Kentucky.”