Small Farmers Face Covid-19: Positive Responses for a Challenging Market

Reader Contribution by Marissa Buchanan and Buchanan's Barnyard
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I hope you are doing everything that you can to be safe during these times. Our farm has seen some negatives and positives with the pandemic happening and I wanted to update on some real issues that are happening to us. If you have followed my writing on MOTHER EARTH NEWS, you know that we run a small business, Buchanan’s Barnyard, in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. We offer geese, ducks, chicks, eggs, goats, and an array of animals. We recently added a milk-cow (autumn) and honeybees. A lot has happened since the pandemic kicked off and here are some brief issues that we have faced. I’ll cover the negatives first.

The Negatives

Inability to ship. Most of our income for our farm comes from live shipments. Right now, hatching eggs and live chicks, goslings, or ducklings is the majority of our income during the spring. This hasn’t really impacted our operations but we are trying to combat this with straight off the farm curbside pickup and more local sales.

Increase in livestock theft. Since the announcement in early March, more of our local producers have seen theft happening and it is not pretty. People are wiping out entire coops and getting goats out of other’s fields. We have since installed locks and cameras to help ease the anxiety of this happening to us. 

New owners and hatcheries have ran out of stock. While this shouldn’t be an issue, it is. I am very happy that more people are getting into poultry, but at the same time, my business inbox has been flooded with questions regarding basic chick care and new owners are losing chicks at an increased rate. This in turn depletes hatcheries of stock. If you are new to raising chickens, please make sure that your chicks have a heat source. This is the biggest issue that I have personally answered about 20 times this week. Most people asking have not even bought chicks from us but from a larger retailer. 

Feed stores run low on feed and supplies. With more people joining the hobby, feed stores were not prepared in our area for the influx. Every trip encompasses there being no carts available, a packed store, and people buying excess of what they need. Owners of bigger livestock can not purchase much needed dewormer in our area because of people self-dosing with it in hopes that it protected them from Covid-19. (Do not ever dose yourself with an animal medication. It is dangerous and could end in death.)

The Positives

New local customers. People who normally order their chicks are finding more local producers and hatcheries to get their chicks. While we have many new owners purchasing also, we can educate them on what their chicks need. With egg sales, our grocery store has been out. Many people are finding eggs from local producers who normally cannot give eggs away and this is benefiting your local economy tremendously. 

More people are transitioning to a self-sufficient lifestyle. My guess is there is an even bigger movement coming after this pandemic ends. Within the first few weeks many of our local grocery stores were out of most necessities and I believe that woke many people up to how easily their lifestyle could end. The sad truth is if the grocery stores stay sold out, they may not be able to care for their families. It is a hard truth but I think we will see many people turn to sustainable living. I have had many new customers ask what they can do to be self sustaining. (I refer them here because I know chickens and plants and there is a plethora of information here.)

Market demand is increasing. The market for poultry especially has increased dramatically. Anyone who can get chickens right now, is getting chickens right now. I know we have had trouble keeping up with the demand even when we are hatching 100+ chicks, goslings, and ducks on site each week. Cattle and goats are the same. Unless you know someone who knows someone else, good luck finding one that is still for sale. 

This is personally my families experience. I hope other farms are seeing more positives than negatives. I also hope that this passes soon. 

Marissa Buchananis the owner of Buchanan’s Barnyard, a mini-pig rescue and poultry conservation farm. Connect with heron Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Read all of Marissa’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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