The Savory Global Network, an international collective of regenerative farms and ranches, is feeling the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The group cancelled its global gathering scheduled to take place in Australia March 24 to 28. We at Acres U.S.A. wanted to know how the pandemic affecting the farming businesses, agritourism and personal lives of Savory Global Network farmers, ranchers and hub leaders in the United States. The hub leaders and producers weighed in from various regions. Overall, it seems those who are living on farms feel secure because of their the ability to grow their own food. They say online sales are booming (so much that teams are working around the clock to fulfill orders). However, revenue streams from agritourism and AirBnB rentals have dried up.

Abbey Smith

  • Jefferson Center for Holistic Management/Springs Ranch
  • Fort Bidwell, California

The Jefferson Center is a small business offering Holistic Management and Ecological Outcome Verification implementation support and training to farmers and ranchers in our region. We operate remotely as a network of Holistic Management professionals across California and Oregon. There is a team of five people supporting the Jefferson Center and its network. We all work remotely, so business continues as usual during this time of social distancing. The Jefferson Center operates on Springs Ranch. We produce grassfed beef for our community, selling beef through Modoc Harvest, a local food hub. Local restaurants buy our beef through Modoc Harvest. So far we haven’t noticed a drop off in sales. Modoc County is sparsely populated and very remote. There are far more cattle in our county than people. Mandates from the state of California that schools close and 4H events be postponed feel unnecessary for our small communities. 

Our family started a Local Food Experience challenge last June for a whole year. This means we are coming into the final months of our local food year, and are “in shape” for the shock of bare grocery store shelves. This is because we rarely go to the grocery store. We have the room and infrastructure set up to grow, preserve and store our own food. We put up a lot of food in the summer and fall (apples, pears, tomatoes, cherries, squash, etc.), we have freezers full of meat from the ranch and our neighbors and most importantly, we’ve developed a network of local, regenerative farms and ranches in Surprise Valley, and across Northern California to source veggies, olive oil, potatoes, wild rice, etc. from. For example, our friends at Shakefork Community Farm in Carlotta, California, attended our Holistic Financial Planning course in Febrruary. We bought 50 pounds of winter veggies from them, which they brought to the course. Here is a list of farms we recommend visiting and purchasing products from across California. It is fascinating to us that during a time of prescribed isolation, we most fully realized (and appreciated) the strength of the network of friends and farmers upon which we deeply depend. 

Julie Davenson

  • Executive Director, Stonewall Farm
  • Keen, New Hampshire
  • 30 head organic and regenerative dairy, 3 acres of organic and no-till crops, agritourism business

Covid-19 has significantly impacted our business, especially the agritourism part that includes private event rentals, weddings, farm tours and school field trips. This revenue kept afloat our small-scale dairy and crops that were not very profitable. We have had to cancel programs, events and classes and refund deposits, with no future revenue forthcoming in the future. We have the ability to ramp up some production to meet local food consumption demand, but not without some immediate assistance. Customers are not coming to the farm. They’re mostly staying at home and we are not set-up for online ordering or delivery. In addition, milk is a highly perishable product and the only way to shop is on the milk truck, and away from our community. We need it to stay local.

I think small farmers need to connect with each other and figure out what we can do to support each other in this time of need but there is little time as we ramp up for grazing season and crops. We have also had to furlough most of our staff. We are trying to bottle and sell milk locally but we are going through the state’s slow licensing process.

Carrie Richards

  • Oregon House, California
  • Richards Land and Cattle/Richards Grassfed Beef
  • 6,500 acres, 150 mother cows, 75 ewes

At our home ranch, COVID-19 has not significantly affected us socially. Our ranch is in a rural place, so stocking up on supplies at the grocery store, is a part of life. With that said, usually at this time of year we sell a few bulls and a load of yearlings at the auction. We will be holding those animals, given that the cattle market has basically dropped out. This time of year that will not effect us given that the grass is starting to explode, but if this market continues, we may have to hold them into the summer months where feeding can get expensive.

As for the beef company, Richards Grassfed Beef, we have seen a whole different side of the spectrum. While restaurant and food service sales are in the tank, grocery sales and online is way up.

Our online retail site has seen the kind of growth that one can only wish for, but with that comes supply issues. In a week we have run out of multiple items, and all the while trying to keep our grocery store customers happy with their added deliveries and product increases. This dramatic growth is wonderful and really difficult to keep up with. Our amazing customers are being patient and working with us through this crazy time. 

As a mom, wife, daughter, ranch manager and business owner, I am having a hard time navigating it all. We made the decision to not home school when we moved back to the ranch four years ago and here we are, trying to make this all work in a time of extreme uncertainty. We have reached out to family and friends and have been given a lot of support, and we are so grateful for it. But caring for my family, my father (who lives here on the ranch), our ranch and business is becoming increasingly harder by the day.

Thank you to all the other farmers and ranchers out there working double time trying to get their products into the grocery stores, meal delivery services, farmers markets and online stores. This has been a whirlwind of a week and we are all in this together.  Keep supporting small businesses and let’s get creative on how to support all the businesses that have been forced to close during this time, we are better together!

Walker Kehrer

  • Becker, Minnesota
  • Thousand Hills Lifetime Grazed, 100% Grassfed Beef
  • 10,000+ processed animals per year

We sell almost all of our meat in grocery stores and because of the virus, people have been cleaning out grocery stores — so our sales have gone up immensely and its been a real challenge to fulfill all of the orders that we are getting. But having more orders is always a good thing, so we are thankful for the business.

People are definitely choosing to panic buy in this time so they are going to the grocery store and buying as much as possible. They are basically just buying whatever they can get their hands on.

At this point things are a little uncertain as they are for most people but we feel pretty confident that we can supply our customers and support our families at this time. At least we will continue to try our best!

I think this is the perfect time for small farmers to show their resilience and their ability to help stabilize the country in a time of panic. People are placing tons of orders and if you can supply them and support them you might have gained a huge new following going forward.

We will all get through this together and people that are providing nutrient-dense food for the country are the most important people we can have right now.

Jodi Benoit

  • Bluffton, Georgia
  • White Oak Pastures 
  • Includes 3,200 acres and employ 150 people

We have worked very hard to upgrade our website the last couple of years so we could focus on our online store. We have felt a large rush of orders through our website since the Covid-19 breakout. We are focused on replenishing our online inventory, and will not let our customers down. We are committed to feeding our community and friends who have supported us and our journey to regenerative agriculture.

As long as our employees are healthy, we do not anticipate any problems. We pray that they will remain healthy and safe.

Small farmers should be sure they have a system in place to get their products to consumers. It is more important now than ever to know and support your farmer.

Compiled by Abbey Smith