What. A. Year. As we’ve come to the end of 2020, many of us are reflecting on the year that was and things that we did, or in this year…didn’t do. There have been plenty of memes online poking fun at the many unprecedented things that took place this year. While those can be fun, we can’t ignore the real suffering and devastation many have experienced this year. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those families.
However, I do recognize there are good things that came about this year too. In addition to “thoughts and prayers”, Utahns came together in miraculous ways this year to help one another. One of those was the ‘Farmers Feeding Utah’ campaign that our newly created Miracle of Agriculture Foundation put on. It has been amazing to witness the generosity of so many – both those involved in agriculture and the many who are not – to give to help families in need. Since we launched this program in May, we have been able to distribute approximately one million pounds of food to families in need. I think of the many farm families we were able to help, at least a little bit, by buying the products they worked hard to produce. I think of the many instances where families came through our donation lines, with tears in their eyes, grateful for the food that will help them get through the next little while. These truly were ‘Miracle Projects’.
This herculean effort could not have been made without your generous donations or the help of fantastic partners like Utah State University’s Create Better Health program and Hunger Solutions Institute. Led by Heidi LeBlanc and greatly supported by the USU College of Agriculture and USU Extension, these folks helped in countless ways and never once asked what was in it for them. Others like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oakdell Eggs, Payson Fruit Growers, Ag Needs Trucking, and more, have given generously to these projects. And this doesn’t even include some farmers who refused payment for food – even though that was one of the goals of the campaign.
But as we look to 2021, I know many of us think of resolutions and things we want to do differently. One thought came to my mind, and I encourage you all to consider it. Shop Local. That’s it. A simple concept that could really help our farmers & ranchers in the long-term. But this isn’t just the simple tagline that we’ve heard before, this is a plea for action. While we may not be able to supply all of our food needs from what is produced in Utah, we can certainly do a lot better than we are now.
I’m not talking about buying 10 times more sweet corn than your family could eat or drinking double the amount of milk as normal (though that would be nice!). I mean asking where products are from when you’re at the store and insisting that what you buy comes from a Utah farm, if possible. And if it isn’t from Utah, be willing to go to another store to get it.
This means when you’re buying apples at a local grocer, ask if they’re from Utah – and if not, why not? It means buying cheese from local Utah creameries; buying beef, pork, lamb, turkey, and more direct from local farmers & ranchers or stores that source locally; even buying popcorn from local farmers! There’s no better way to literally, put your money where your mouth is. If we really want to help local agriculture survive and thrive in Utah, we need to insist that our farm and ranch families have a local market for their food. That means insisting our grocery stores, restaurants, and more source from Utah. Finally, a resolution that is more than just words.