Through its annual County Activities of Excellence Awards, the American Farm Bureau Federation celebrates county Farm Bureaus for their unique, volunteer-driven programming. The following counties were among 12 recognized for their programs and activities in 2019 and 2020. The programs featured here focus on county Farm Bureau efforts to help address the huge increase in families in need during the pandemic.
Cows 2 Kids
Recognizing the importance of keeping milk in kids’ diets as schools switched to virtual learning in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau and the county Dairy Farmers Committee created the Cows 2 Kids project. This effort resulted in 7,000 gallons of milk donated to 2,200 families in eight schools, plus homeless shelters and a food pantry. The dairy farmers, all Farm Bureau members, planned the project, solicited sponsorships, sourced the milk, and transported and delivered the product to the schools and facilities for distribution.
Within a week of the program launch, volunteers raised $7,000 to purchase the milk. Walmart agreed to purchase the milk from the processor for the price the company usually pays – $1.89 –and sell it to the Cows 2 Kids project for 89 cents, the same loss-leader price it sells for in the store. This amounted to a $7,000 donation from Walmart and allowed Cows 2 Kids to double the number of gallons of milk they could distribute.
Once a week for three weeks, the processing plant delivered 2,300 gallons of milk to Walmart. The milk was transferred to a refrigerated truck owned by dairy farmers. Farm Bureau volunteers with coolers picked up the milk and distributed it to the schools and food pantries. At some schools, the volunteers had the chance to help hand out the milk. The families also received nutritional information with their gallon of milk.
The Cow 2 Kids program not only helped families in need by providing them with 3 gallons of milk (1 gallon per week for three weeks), it gave dairy farmers an outlet for their milk, which they very much needed after schools and restaurants abruptly closed at the onset of the pandemic.
Farms to Food Banks
Pickaway and Delaware counties
Looking to help their friends and neighbors in need of healthy proteins to feed themselves and their families, the Farm Bureaus in Pickaway and Delaware counties purchased 43 head of locally raised hogs and beef cattle from member-producers and Junior Fair exhibitors, had them processed and donated the meat to food banks.
In May 2020, the counties purchased 30 hogs from a Farm Bureau member-producer. The meat was processed at the Orient Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction meat packing plant, a local packer that rehabilitates prisoners through workforce development. The plant had recently reopened after a COVID-19-related closure. The county Farm Bureaus then coordinated the distribution of nearly 4,000 pounds of pork to 15 food banks in the counties.
A month later, the county Farm Bureaus purchased 13 steers from the Junior Fair Sale at the Pickaway County Fair. The steers were purchased at the above-market price of $1.15 per pound and also processed at the Orient Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction meat packing plant. The purchase provided 6,500 pounds of ground beef that was distributed to six food banks.
Pickaway and Delaware County Farm Bureaus tapped into the community’s generosity for their Farms to Food Banks project. They worked with local foundations to plan the project, raise funds, purchase the livestock and distribute the meat. County leaders set a goal to raise $30,000 in outside funding for the project. The Pork Council and Beef Council enthusiastically supported the project, granting $2,500 and $5,000 in funding, respectively. The Well Being Foundation and the Food Insecurities Program coordinated with the community foundations to grant funds for the project. The remaining funding came from the county Farm Bureaus and generous donations from the community, including individual Farm Bureau members and businesses large and small.
In total, 10,500 pounds of Farm Bureau-donated meat were distributed to 15 food banks in Pickaway and Delaware counties in spring 2020.
Farms to Food Banks 2.0
In 2021 the Pickaway County Farm Bureau joined with the Pickaway County Community Foundation and Delaware Community Foundation to launch Farms to Food Banks 2.0. The beta version of Farms to Foodbanks aimed to address issues of food insecurity and the shortage of meat processors for small to mid-size livestock operations.
In May, the partners sourced 12 hogs from a Pickaway County producer and worked with the Ohio State University Meat Science Program to process the pork while educating students on the underlying principles of biology, physiology and nutrition that drive animal growth and the impact they have on meat quality. The pork was donated to food banks in Pickaway and Delaware counties. In June, Farm Bureau placed a packer bid on all youth exhibitor livestock steer projects at the Pickaway County Fair. The county Farm Bureau and community foundations will process 17 steers at a local processor and donate the beef to area food banks.
The Pickaway County Farm Bureau thanks the Ohio Pork Council and Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation for their support of the project. In addition, Farms to Food Banks 2.0 would not have been possible without the Well Being Fund, the Pickaway County Community Foundation or the donations from community members to the Food Insecurities Fund.
Applications are now open for the 2021 County Activities of Excellence. Up to 24 counties will display their winning activities at the 2021 American Farm Bureau Annual Convention and Trade Show in Atlanta in January. County award winners receive up to four free registrations to the Annual Convention (cost of travel and housing not included) and a $2,250 stipend to apply toward the cost of travel and exhibition.