Is anyone else concerned about short term or long term local/global food security and supply chains? It was honestly one of the first things I worried about when things started to escalate back in Feb/Mar, but anytime I’ve mentioned it to family members they more or less say I’m worrying over nothing.
I’m in Ontario, Canada, and although the consistent message from all levels of government has been that there is enough food, I’m also hearing/reading more and more about farmers dumping their milk, meat processing plants shutting down or drastically reducing production due to Covid outbreaks amongst workers and/or unsafe working conditions, countries restricting food exports, etc. Plus, I know here in Ontario many farms/farmers rely on migrant labour to plant and harvest fruit and vegetable crops, and apparently there are concerns that those workers won’t get here (on time) this year due to border restrictions, or that housing them will be too expensive or simply problematic due to social distancing and/or mandatory isolation/quarantine requirements.
So, just wondering if I’m truly overthinking it, or if there really is something to worry about, whether sooner or later. Curious what others think...?
persimmon / 1233 posts
I'm concerned! Not enough to really do anything about it but yeah it's crossed my mind. All these assumptions that everything's fine don't really account for a shutdown that's several months long, IMHO. But we'll see - I hope we're wrong.
pomegranate / 3113 posts
I’m also concerned. I’m not so worried about the meat issues, since I’m happy to cook mostly vegetarian (I was vegetarian for several years in and after college but eventually went back to eating meat after I started dating my now-DH). But I fear that eventually, even those options are going to start suffering. I recently stocked up on a lot of dried beans from my favorite vendor, not because I was so worried about widespread shortages at the time but because they were selling out fast and I didn’t want to have to wait for next year’s crop to get another order in, but I’m glad I have them now. I’m also hoping to join a CSA at a local farm for the summer, though even those are selling out fast. I’m also planning to plant a serious veggie garden again this year. I used to, but we’ve been away a lot the past few summers so I slacked off since we weren’t here to tend it enough. At this point, I don’t think we’ll be going away this summer so I might as well grow what I can. Haven’t gone quite so far as to try to get backyard chickens, though. I’m trying not to cross the line into hoarding, but I definitely plan to start keeping a little more on hand than I have previously.
persimmon / 1390 posts
Just wanted to pass along this resource: https://eden.cce.cornell.edu/
It's geared toward the agriculture community, but as an informed person you might find it helpful.
On a small scale a lot of this depends on how prepared a given farm is. You might have heard about closures of beef processing plants where COVID-19 has swept through their workforce. You're right that many seasonal produce farm workers live in very tight quarters and if farmers aren't proactive about providing additional space and personal hygiene supplies, they will lose a good deal of their workforce. The added cost of this is going to force some farms to shut their doors if the pandemic extends into the harvest season. If farms weren't proactive about bringing up H2A workers, which account for about 10% of seasonal ag labor, they will have challenges bringing them up now.
This will be crop-specific too. So for example, hand-harvested crops like lettuce would be harder hit than mechanical crops like wheat and corn. Basically your fresh produce is what could become a challenge. Not a "crop," but meat and poultry purchased in a larger grocery store is more likely to be affected than what you might buy direct from a farmer, due to the size of processing plants (what you buy direct from a farmer is more likely to be processed at a smaller, local plant).
Something VERY helpful you can do to prevent farms from going under and to maintain the supply chain is find out how to buy produce from your local farmers. Many farms only do wholesale and are now having to figure out how to do direct to consumer sales. In my area, that means we actually have increased access to local produce right now because farmers and vendors have had to be very creative. So poke around your local distributors (the ones that supply institutions and grocery stores) and you may find they have a pick up window, or are even doing customer deliveries. One big thing here was that there are some vegetable cooperatives and farms that rely on sales of flowering plants grown in greenhouses to maintain their seasonal produce business. Usually a huge portion of these sales go to churches which couldn't happen this year, so they pivoted and did drive-through flower pickup for customers. It was very successful. Don't be scared of farmers markets right now--vendors are doing a lot to protect themselves and their customers--they don't want to get sick either. So in summation, look for how you can support small-medium farms because they already have such small margins that they are in danger of having to close if they can't pivot to direct to consumer sales.
For dairy, until the kinks get worked out of the system continue buying milk, but also increase your consumption of other dairy (yogurt, cheese) if you eat it. Purchasing processed dairy like this will help stabilize the market until they get milk in more direct-to-consumer packaging.
International food trade probably won't suffer much. There hasn't been any action to reduce produce coming in from other countries.
nectarine / 2400 posts
I’m not worried. I figure there will be food even if it’s not what I’d prefer. So maybe it won’t be fun but I’m not worried about starving. Plus we raise our own meat and gardening season is in swing so now is a better time then ever to up our self sufficiency
persimmon / 1023 posts
I’m also in Ontario and just read an article on CTV about this exact thing this morning. Yes, processing plants are losing workers with Covid outbreaks and I’m a little concerned the longer it goes on. I have been sourcing things from other areas as someone else mentioned. Friends of ours are farmers so we can buy grass fed beef direct. I just ordered our produce from a wholesale place that’s now doing home consumer deliveries. I know there is a milk and dairy home delivery in our city as well. It’s pricey compared to the grocery store but would be an option if needed. I am thinking about doing a CSA or similar as well, which I have looked into for the past few summers but never did it. All of this is not because I’m afraid the supply chain will break down completely but more that I don’t feel like my regular grocery store is taking enough safety precautions so I don’t want to go in person. I hate going there and not being able to get what I want as well since it’s such a production to get food now.
So this week I have produce delivery, next week a grocery pick up order, and I will maybe go to Costco in person if needed depending because I feel they are taking good precautions.
nectarine / 2243 posts
Yes. I’ve been buying and freezing a lot.
clementine / 918 posts
I am starting to worry about this a bit. I want to believe that we will have access to food for the duration but expect that there will be some products that are more scarce than others. We are stocking up and prepared to ration as needed.
@Becky: Thank you for all the ideas and information. I will start looking around for local farm options. We are trying really hard to support local right now. I think that is a behavior that we will continue to prioritize.
@gotkimchi: Thankful for our small garden we started last year and already working to expand it. DH and the boys planted more seeds yesterday.
pomegranate / 3127 posts
I'm a bit concerned. I'm in NYC with very limited ability to grow my own food. There have been so many "surprises" in the last few weeks that I wouldn't be surprised to see something busting our food supply chain.I've had this on my mind for years. But I couldn't do a whole lot about it when my husband didn't think having our own land is a matter of survival, not a thing I'd like to do for fun. So basically just trying to stock up on enough food to get us through a couple of weeks at a time, and hoping that's enough. It's not helping that even if there is food in stores, we may end up with no money to pay for it. There are already many New Yorkers facing that situation...
pomegranate / 3272 posts
I'm actually not concerned. Sure there might be a shortage on some specific items so if there is one brand of something that you HAVE to have, it might be best to stock up. And it might mean that prices are a little higher for awhile and/or you may have to use alternatives to buy food (farmers markets, CSA, etc.) vs just going to one big box grocery store. But I know that my lack of fear right now comes from a place of privilege.