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Commentary: County Farm Bureaus innovate during pandemic

Issue Date: June 10, 2020
By Lindsey Liebig, Colleen Taber and Hannah Gbeh
Lindsey Liebig
Colleen Taber
Hannah Gbeh
To promote local farm products, the Kern County Farm Bureau collaborated with a media company on a series of videos.

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shelter-in-place protocols and safety concerns disrupted rural communities and markets for agricultural products. Around California, county Farm Bureaus responded with innovative solutions intended to help their members ensure safety of themselves, their families and their employees, and to promote and sell crops and commodities in new and rapidly changing conditions.

Here are three examples among many, showing how county Farm Bureaus in California have supported their members and their communities.

Sacramento County Farm Bureau

"Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." - Mr. Rogers

The Sacramento County Farm Bureau has been focused on supporting all our agricultural members throughout this pandemic. We are committed to being one of the helpers and a resource our members can rely upon as we navigate these difficult circumstances.

In cooperation with our county agricultural commissioner's office and local California Office of Emergency Services representatives, we have secured and distributed more than 15,000 disposable masks for free to members throughout our county. We will continue to do so, as long as supplies are available.

Although N95 masks, Tyvek suits and nitrile gloves continue to be in short supply, we are working closely with OES to acquire those at affordable prices, to provide to members throughout the summer months.

Additionally, we have provided weekly updates to members that include regulatory and legislative information, along with resources and programs to assist them throughout this pandemic.

(Lindsey Liebig is executive director of the Sacramento County Farm Bureau in Elk Grove.)

Kern County Farm Bureau

The Kern County Farm Bureau recently started engaging its members and community a little differently than we have in the past.

With a storied industry such as agriculture, there is much information to share on behalf of the farmer. For too long, that information has been fractionally disseminated, and in an effort to solve this problem we asked, "What if the public got real agricultural issues straight from the 'horse's mouth'?"

Kern County Farm Bureau President John Moore III is passionate about partnering with Billy Simkins of Bakersfield Tuff Media in a series of "Farm Country" Facebook videos because of Simkins' down-to-earth, long-form interviewing style and vast audience. Farmers and ranchers are typically camera-shy and don't desire the limelight; however, they are the heroes who have kept food on our tables while overcoming significant odds.

President Moore kicked off the video series discussing COVID-19 and how the pandemic is affecting his potato farming efforts. The truths Moore shared were real, and they were relevant to issues the agricultural community faces, both past and present. These truths have been a common thread with all interviewees throughout the "Farm Country" series (proudly, all KCFB directors).

The strength of the "Farm Country" series provides validation and empowerment to those in the agricultural community, and is an excellent education for Kern County and beyond. Bakersfield Tuff's "Farm Country" vlog is growing, and we look forward to continuing our partnership to advocate on behalf of our farmers and ranchers.

(Colleen Taber is administrator of the Kern County Farm Bureau in Bakersfield.)

San Diego County Farm Bureau

When the shelter-in-place order was issued, the following weeks brought a flood of phone calls from our members who had experienced a drastic decline in their sales. At the same time, we saw a surge of consumers in the city of San Diego, frantic because they could not find their regular items on their grocery store shelves.

In an effort to help our members move their products, we created a website for consumers, highlighting ways they could make local purchases from our members. Our webpage highlights farms that offer community-supported agriculture programs, direct-from-farm sales, farm stands, farmers markets, farm and garden supplies, student livestock sales, nursery products, local wine and cider sales, and more.

We did a widespread media push to make sure this resource was put into the hands of our local consumers, and our page has had more than 18,000 hits.

(Hannah Gbeh is executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau in Escondido.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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