North Carolina Has Vibrant Food Supply but Financial Challenges Loom | Beaufort County Now

We are starting a small garden at my home and my three-year-old son recently asked me if we could plant chicken seeds so we would have more chickens to eat. civitas, food supply, financial challenges, march 26, 2020
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

North Carolina Has Vibrant Food Supply but Financial Challenges Loom

Publisher's note: This post, by Ray Nothstine, was originally published in Civitas's online edition.

    We are starting a small garden at my home and my three-year-old son recently asked me if we could plant chicken seeds so we would have more chickens to eat. I told him it was a great idea but chickens can be a little more complicated than coaxing them out of the earth.

    It's easy to laugh at the comment from a three-year-old but in truth, a lot of people don't know anything about the process it takes to get food from the farm to shelves.

    Victor Davis Hanson reminds us:

  • The nation's urbanites increasingly govern those living in the hinterlands, even as vanishing rural Americans still feed and fuel the nation. At the nation's birth, it took nine farmers to feed one city dweller. Today, one farmer supports 99 urbanites - evidence, supposedly, that almost everyone has been freed from the drudgery of agricultural work.

    Getting abundant amounts of safe and cheap food is one of the most amazing aspects of technology and markets today. North Carolina is obviously a strong agricultural state and our local farms are doing more than their share.

    With all the good news about our food supply, including updates and thanks to our farmers from the U.S. Dept of Agriculture, there is a disaster looming for many farmers and those in the agribusinesses. Even though the food supply remains strong and uninterrupted, many farms in North Carolina and across the nation are feeling the pain.

    I recently spoke with Ron Joyce of Joyce Farms in Winston-Salem who noted that his farm was set to exceed last year's revenue but sales have basically halted. Joyce Farms not only sells the vast majority of its products to restaurants but cruise ships are a significant chunk of revenue.

    "I feel so badly for so many of these chefs," said Joyce. "These chefs do it out of a passion for food and they enjoy it because so many are in this line of work because they love creating an entire culture of hospitality. So many of them work 15-hour days for six days a week."

    Joyce reminds us that restaurants are particularly limited in weathering this pandemic storm that has wreaked havoc on the nation.

    "Years of blood, sweat, and tears have been put into these businesses. Most can hang on for about a month and that's about it."

    Joyce called out the federal lawmakers who recently held up a relief package on Capitol Hill to advance their own ideological agenda. "Politicians need to quit messing around with this bill and help us out."

    Like many in the business community, Joyce says the state and country need to find better options than shutting down the economy.

    "I'd hope we can find a way to self-quarantine those with greater risks and open some things back up," he said. Joyce pointed to measures some states have done by creating distance and lower capacity in restaurants without completely shutting the dining service down.

    "Are we really taking care of those that are most vulnerable? There needs to be special attention for those that are most vulnerable, all are in agreement on that."

    As many have pointed out, Joyce is concerned that the economic consequences short and long term may be worse than the virus itself.

    "I'm in the category for freedom," says Joyce. "Let's not panic and there may be alternatives, like 50 percent occupancy for restaurants and focusing on protecting those that are more vulnerable."

    As more "Shelter-in-place" orders emerge from local and state officials, more and more are bound to ask questions about a potential exit strategy from shutdowns and how lives will be impacted long beyond the virus.

    (This map shows how North Carolinians can support many local farms by ordering pick up and delivery of food directly.)

    (Joyce Farms in Winston-Salem is selling chicken directly to customers.)

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