Written by: Tamra Annett, Utah’s Own Specialist
To say that most of us have spent this March reflecting on the past year is an understatement. A year ago the world was placed on pause, and in many ways we’re still figuring out the true impact of that pause.
Perhaps your conversations have been filled with a lot of “I remember when…” or your social media pages are prompting memories of school and office shutdowns or plummeting gas prices. Yet amidst the conversations floating around nearly a year later, few mention the empty shelves they were faced with at grocery stores for the very first time. In the spirit of preparation, many anxious consumers filled their reserves with months’ worth of meat, frozen vegetables, bread, etc. In fact, one news article claimed Utah grocery sales increased by 256 percent from the previous year. Within weeks, the food supply chain adjusted to the overwhelming demand and the public adapted to e-shops and delivery systems. Retail workers became front-line heroes adjusting to the new rules and long lines. All of us recalibrated to a new normal.
However, if there is a silver lining in such an interesting and challenging time, it was the drive to return to local agriculture. Many families bought Utah-raised beef, pork, chicken or lamb for the first time in order to fill their freezers. The demand spiked so much that ranchers continue to fill local processing facilities far past capacity. Several processors are now planning expansions to meet the demand. CSA farms saw double their expected demand as people remembered and relied on locally grown fruits and vegetables. Some farms opened e-shops for convenient pick-up or deliveries. In addition, local nursery and gardening stores saw record sales for garden boxes, vegetable starts and even backyard chickens.
In many ways, we’re better prepared this season to face the challenges of a changed market. Our hope is that consumers will remember and reinvest in the local food supply – not necessarily out of panicked preparation, but in a spirit of support for our family, friends and neighbors.
Encourage others to replenish their freezers with Utah beef, pork or lamb. Tell a neighbor about the convenience of fresh produce grown by a neighborhood CSA. Share your expertise for growing the perfect tomato, cucumber or berry. Experience the joy and miracle of agriculture as we embark on a new season.
Searching for the best way to discover Utah’s agricultural products? Find local farmers, ranchers, and food artisans near you at UtahsOwn.org!
> Return to the March 2021 Cultivating Connections newsletter here.
– – –