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The Impact of COVID-19 on Family Farms

Updated: May 13, 2020

Over the past couple of months we have seen the impacts of COVID-19 on various industries: closing the doors of many businesses, halting production, laying off workers and creating financial strain across the world. At Taste Alberta, we know our readers care about the agriculture industry and, in particular, the well-being of family farms in Alberta. Here is some information, provided by two family farms in the province, on how agriculture is being impacted during this time.

Chatsworth Farms is a family farm based in Vermillion, Alberta. On more than 2,000 acres of beautiful rolling parkland, they grow grain, legumes and alfalfa, and they also raise beef cattle, sheep, turkeys, ducks and chickens.

Photo Credit: Chatsworth Farms

The Andrashewski family farms canola, wheat, barley, oats and peas on their 3,500 acre farm near Two Hills, Alberta.

Photo Credit: Jeannette Andrashewski

Both families offered their insight on how their day-to-day operations have been impacted and how they are staying connected to their consumers.

Food Production Continues:

One of the most important messages relayed by both families is that food production is continuing! Jeannette Andrashewski states, “Farmers understand that now more than ever consumers are concerned about food security. It must be unsettling for a mom or senior to walk into their local grocery store and see shelves empty of consumer basics."

"Never has our generation experienced this. We want consumers to know and trust that our farms are still doing business. We are still hauling our grains to elevators, milking our cows and selling our beef.”

Right now, farmers’ biggest challenge is adapting to doing business with their agricultural partners, such as their suppliers and transportation operators. Like many of us, farmers are doing their part to practice social distancing, which means the methods for selling their products, buying parts for equipment, etc., has had to shift to respect social distancing requirements.

Ramping Up Cleanliness Measures:

As with all businesses, sanitation and cleanliness protocols are ramping up to slow the spread of COVID-19. On the farms, this has never been more important. The safety and health of livestock and the people working on the farm is always a priority, which is why strong biosecurity measures are in place across Alberta. Charlotte from Chatsworth Farms indicates that this has only strengthened over the past couple of months.

“We're always very focused on biosecurity measures as well as staying healthy, especially during calving and seeding time—for the animals' sake and for ours,” she says.

“That's even more important this year and includes everything from getting enough sleep to disinfecting more often, especially after trips to town for supplies, which now have to be planned more strategically.

Lacking Social Connection:

Jeannette also mentions that another way day-to-day operations have shifted on the farm is in the lack of social connection—something many of us can relate to at this time.

Social distancing has made this connection much more difficult for farmers as well. “We would once go in to our grain elevator to have a coffee while our truck full of grain was unloaded,” Jeanette says. “Buying tires at the local tire shop meant not only chatting with staff but maybe a fellow farmer from the community. Social distancing has made social connection more difficult in an industry that already has periods of isolation.”

Staying Connected to Consumers:

In discussing how the industry is staying connected to consumers during this time, both farmers agree that social media has been amazing. Social media allows consumers to connect directly with local farmers to learn from them. “Join any media platform and you can find a farmer willing to share how they grow abundant, safe and healthy food," Jeannette says.

Charlotte from Chatsworth Farms has started doing virtual farm tours several times a week as a way to educate families and children. “This is the season when so many schools partner with ag-awareness programs and of course that's not able to happen now. So this is our way to provide a distraction and also offer some fun farm learning too.”

You can connect with both families on Social Media at the following:

@Chatsworth_farm @farminginpearls

Photo Credit: Chatsworth Farms

Photo Credit: Jeannette Andrashewski

Support our Alberta Family Farms

As always, we encourage you to continue to support our Alberta family farms. You can help by reading the labels at your local grocery store and purchasing products with ‘Product of Canada’ on the label or purchase brands you know are made with local ingredients.

Our farmers want you to know that the farming community is very self aware of social distancing as their livelihoods depend on their health, the health of their families and the health of their employees. 

The farming community asks that you help to do your part to flatten the curve by washing your hands and staying home as much as possible. We will all get through this if we work together!

Opinions expressed in this blog are those of Taste Alberta and do not necessarily reflect the provincial and federal governments.

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