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COVID-19 Impacts Several Aspects of the Agriculture Industry

COVID-19, the coronavirus, pandemic, and quarantine are words that have become all too familiar throughout the world, leaving many people lost, broken, and confused. 

This pandemic has completely blindsided most consumers, and has left them wondering when things will get back to normal; however, two things remain: hope and determination. 

While most of this is out of their control, consumers have to stay hopeful yet realistic. Consumers have to do their part and stay home as much as they can; the people on the frontline are depending on the consumers and community to do their part.

However, the people who are often forgotten about are working as hard as ever to keep the world fed—the agriculture industry. 

They can’t stop because, without them, there would be no meat, dairy products, or eggs in stores. In fact, due to the restrictions put in place, it has left many agriculture businesses swamped by customers feeling the need to stock up on everything. 

“We had 13 beef appointments in one day and for a small business like us that is very rare,” said Zach Sprankle, the owner of Sprankles Butcher Shop in Covington, Ohio.

He went on to explain that they are booked out of beef until September. 

The extra business is great for them; however, they have had to hire extra staff to help on the days when they slaughter beef. 

“On a normal week, we typically butcher eight cows. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we are averaging closer to 10 or 11 a week,” said Sprankle.

The larger grocery stores are running out of the essentials: beef, pork, poultry, and eggs. This “shortage” is causing people to go back to shopping local and supporting their farmers and small businesses. 

Another aspect of the agriculture industry that has been overwhelmed due to the pandemic is feed and grain. 

Miami Valley Feed and Grain, a drive-thru elevator in New Carlisle, Ohio, has had a line outside their building since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Molly Sutherly of Miami Valley Feed and Grain stated, “People are not coming to the realization we won’t close. We simply can’t,” said Molly Sutherly who works at the feed dealer.

She continued to say how livestock counts as essential and that they have had to ask customers to stop stocking up. 

Miami Valley Feed and Grain, like Sprankles Butcher Shop, has also hired on more help to work the drive-thru and help load vehicles. Some of their employees said that after the first week of Ohio’s stay-at-home order, they felt like they could barely lift their arms up from so many customers stocking up on feed and other supplies.

Like butchers and feed dealers, the stock show industry is facing a very trying time. 

They are now in the heart of their sale season. So many kids and families are concerned about buying their projects because they fear shows and fairs could be canceled. 

“Continue to buy the projects solely for the kids’ purposes and to be a part of the livestock industry. It will continue to teach them ownership and responsibility,” said Travis Durst, an avid pig showman.

Continue to buy the projects solely for the kids’ purposes and to be a part of the livestock industry. It will continue to teach them ownership and responsibility.”

Travis Durst

Durst is looking forward to things getting back to normal, but until then, he can be found in his barn with his pigs.

Robert Fink of Fink Farms is also experiencing the effects of the coronavirus. Fink Farm has had around forty litters of pigs this year. 

“Many people have been hesitant to come to the barn to view our set of pigs,” said Fink.

They have been busy trying to get videos and pictures of their pigs for customers. They typically have their sales online at the beginning of the sale season.

“We didn’t have much of a change, but the more shows that have been canceled, the more apprehensive customers are becoming about buying pigs,” said Fink. 

He explained further that pigs are selling for the most part, just not at as high of a price as they typically would. 

Fink said he is remaining positive through all of this by spending lots of time in the barn with his two grandsons. 

“While winning is fun, that’s not what showing is about. There are so many lessons to be learned in the barn and through showing,” said Fink.

Matt Gross of High Output Genetics, a livestock breeding company, has been trying his best to work with his customers on sales because he typically sells all of his pigs through a live sale. With the restrictions of the coronavirus, he can no longer do that. 

“Most other breeders are moving to an online sale, but I just can’t do that,” said Gross. “We are all having to face new challenges, and I don’t want to add stress to my customers by making them have to learn how to use a new system to buy their pigs.” 

He has changed the format of his sale to a week-long bid board sale. His customers can still come to look at the pigs and bid on them, but Gross is eliminating a large crowd by scheduling appointments with his customers. They come and look through his set of pigs, place a bid, and then wait for a call or text to say if they have been outbid. 

At the end of the sale, there is a bid-off over the phone. 

“It has created a little more work for me, but I want to assure my customers [so they] know what they’re buying and feel safe about their projects,” said Gross.

Everyone is in a time of unknown, but Gross thinks if everyone sticks together and remains hopeful, then he believes that the kids will still get to show this summer.

The leaders of the show industry are trying their best to keep kids involved and interested in their animals during these challenging times. There have been virtual cattle, sheep, and pig shows. 

The exhibitor cleans their animal up, puts on their show clothes, and shows the animal to the best of their ability by taking a video and submitting it to the show committee. The videos are sent to the judge to be evaluated, and then, results are posted a week or so later. 

Some breeders are offering a portion of the money back from their sales if shows become canceled while many others are trying to offer sale credits and extra money to exhibitors, all dependent on the way they place in the virtual shows. 

The National Swine Registry is offering games and coloring pages to kids and families of the swine industry to help ease the boredom of quarantine. They have even offered virtual field trips through boar studs and commercial industries. 

Governor Mike DeWine has put his input in on showing. He stated that if exhibitors could afford to purchase their projects now, to go ahead and purchase it. DeWine is trying his best to find a way for the kids in 4-H Club to still be able to sell their animals.


This letter was submitted to The Witness by Treanna Lavy. All members of the Wilmington College community are welcome to submit letters to the editor, articles, photographs, etc. These submissions will be reviewed by the editorial staff and processed accordingly. Published submissions do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of The Witness. Being the student newspaper, The Witness wants to give the opportunity to its readers to have their voices heard.

The featured image was found on CNBC‘s website. (Photo: Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle)

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