Lancaster County is known for its rolling farmlands and the dedicated farmers who tend to them. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, farms across the country have grappled with a surplus of their products since schools, restaurants and other large buyers closed. Some are dumping milk, euthanizing animals and giving their products away for free. Lancaster County unfortunately felt similar effects.
In a recent Lancaster Farmland Trust webinar, Elizabethtown farmer Jim Hershey is aware of several farms in the area that had to see their hard work go to nothing. He knows of dairy farmers who had to “open the plug” on their milk and broiler farmers who had to euthanize some of their chickens.
“There’s nothing more painful than good nutrition going to waste,” says PA Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding during a Lancaster Chamber webinar. Although the state was seeing high levels of milk dumping in March and April, Redding says the dairy industry is getting back on track thanks to restaurants reopening, families buying more consistently and farmers adjusting production. He does predict short-term meat shortages as the national supply chain adjusts.
Some farms in Central Pennsylvania chose to give their extra products to consumers for free. On May 20, Dieffenbach’s Potato Chips gave away 40,000 pounds of potatoes at the Berkshire Mall in Wyomissing. Another farm in Willow Street gave away 5,000 gallons of milk to anyone in need.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also taking measures to help ensure that the surplus of produce, meats and dairy do not go to waste. Through their Farmers to Family Food Box Program, products from farms are sent to distributors who pack the food into family-sized boxes; then the boxes are sent to charitable organizations – like food banks – for families in need.
Locally, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative was awarded $1,365,000 to participate in the program. The cooperative is delivering boxes of local organic produce to families in the area. In just one week, they have given away over 6,000 boxes. “This food comes from hard working farmer families in and around Lancaster County that take so much pride in their harvests,” the cooperative said in a Facebook post.
In the previously mentioned Lancaster Farmland Trust webinar, Gordon Hoover, who is a third-generation farmer from eastern Lancaster County, said, “Farmers are very good at figuring out solutions to problems. They are very innovative.” While the pandemic continues on, think about your local farmers the next time you shop. Consider purchasing a CSA, stopping at small stands/markets or buying PA Preferred products.
If you are in need of food, find local resources here.