The best steak I have ever eaten was a big chunk of rib-eye raised by my friend Jack Baker, a director for Osage Valley Electric Cooperative. Jack raises cattle on his farm near Butler and I can always count on him dropping off a “care package” around Christmas.
The last few months, I can’t tell you how many times I heard a friend tell me about empty freezers at the supermarket. It has been the same mentality that happens when winter storms are forecast. “Storm coming? I better stock up.”
With a couple of kids at home who love to eat, I almost fell into the same trap. I ran by the grocery store one night and started to get nervous. I had to stop, take a deep breath and remember all of those cold mornings before school when my brother, Clayton, and I had to put out hay for our cattle. I called up my friend, Tyler Clenin, who owns Clenin Farm Supply in Moniteau County. He had a pretty good laugh when I asked about the food supply. In addition to selling farm supplies, Tyler just started selling meat direct from local farms to the community.
When I asked if he would run out of meat any time soon, he just chuckled. “If we run low on beef, I’ll just round up another one from the Milligan boys.”
If one good thing has come from the COVID-19 crisis it will be the knowledge of where our food comes from. I have seen countless Facebook posts from farmers letting their communities know not to worry, that there is plenty of fresh, local food that they can purchase from their neighbors.
It hasn’t hurt that ag organizations, the Missouri Department of Agriculture and University of Missouri Extension have put together online directories linking families to local food sources. Your next tender, juicy steak may be as close as your local farmers market. You might even live in an area where the farmer will deliver it to your door.
It’s not just meat that is being marketed locally. In many parts of the state on-farm dairies are delivering fresh milk and cheese the way our grandparents enjoyed it. Nothing tastes better than fresh milk from a glass bottle.
These days many people count on income from side jobs to make ends meet. This might be an artist who paints landscapes or a neighbor who makes wreaths. It could also be someone who has a job in town and grows sweet corn to sell on weekends. The COVID-19 shutdown really hurt these folks.
We all have a choice on where we buy the things we need. Before you run to the store or log on to Amazon, take a minute to look around your community. You may find that the best products around aren’t in some fancy store, they are just down the road from someone you grew up with. Shopping local is more than just saving time, it’s helping our friends and neighbors through this tough time.
Now, more than ever, we are all in this together.