Missouri’s specialty crop beginning farmers cultivate resilience during COVID-19

COVID-19 Resilience in Specialty Crop Producers

  • Published: Friday, May 21, 2021

INTRODUCTION

The pandemic placed extraordinary demands on agricultural producers and created unexpected challenges for southern Missouri farmers, and pushed the University of Missouri Extension to implement new and innovative approaches to help farmers persevere through the crisis. Farmers have indicated several changes caused by the pandemic that impact their businesses, such as increase in local food demand, reduction in on-farm labor, and limitations on hosting on-farm visits with customers.

In a new Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development viewpoint article, authors Patillo, A.R., Millsap, J.C., Byers, P.L., Gundel, J.A., Peregoy, K.B., Lake, A.K., Denkler, S.R., Meusch, E.N., and Burton, D.L. present a reflective paper designed to evaluate the use of online teaching and Extension education approaches to serve beginning specialty crop farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic and the limitations of serving farmers in areas with limited digital access.

KEY FINDINGS

  • The USDA-NRCS StrikeForce project pivoted to deliver online curricula using videoconferencing, while addressing the limitations of digital access for farmers.
  • The long-term trusting relationships nurtured by the University of Missouri Extension StrikeForce team created opportunities to engage producers in new ways.
  • Specialty Crop Producers share candid experiences of how the pandemic affected their production and business.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR POLICY, PRACTICE, AND RESEARCH

  • CARES funding requirements for production revenue and expenses for small businesses made it difficult for Farmers Market sellers to access funding during the pandemic.
  • Expanded use of videos and online livestreaming can enhance individual farmer consultations to be more effective and efficient and help to identify on-farm issues.
  • Continue to make educational materials available in the form of newsletters, guide sheets, and newspaper articles, there is a sector of the population who prefer not to engage with digital technologies despite having broadband.
  • Build on existing programming and expand strategies to promote Missouri’s varied agriculture landscape.

STUDY BACKGROUND

The University of Missouri Extension’s strategic initiative developed alternative educational opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic for immediate use by farmers in crisis. In surveys and reports, farmers indicated several changes caused by the pandemic that impact their businesses, such as increase in local food demand, reduction in on-farm labor, and limitations on hosting on-farm visits with customers. This study describes the StrikeForce initiative and its relationship with MUE, presents the changes made to educational programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and reflects on MUE’s response to the pandemic and its path forward.

Permanent link to abstract and full PDF: https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2021.102.052

Author contact: Amy Patillo, [email protected]

Writer: Amy Patillo

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