Frustration. Anger. Isolation. Loneliness. Uncertainty.
Those are a few descriptions of how people have felt the past few months as they have worked through this COVID-19 pandemic.
Individual pork producers and county pork producer associations have addressed these feelings by being proactive in helping others in their communities. In other words, they are living this We Care principle: As caring neighbors and responsible citizens, we’re dedicated to giving back and helping make our communities even stronger.
Here are a few examples that have been shared with us:
Jet’s served roughly 336 meals total. AACP paid for 261 of those meals for EMS, first responders, law enforcement, and medical workers.
Established in 1986, Jet’s Meat Processing serves Allamakee, Winnishiek, Clayton, Crawford counties, as well as northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin, and southeast Minnesota.
Front-line workers were thanked by many county pork groups in Iowa, but Aisha Nieland of Breda was thinking about people closer to home. She put together a snack and a note for those delivering feed to the farm April 15.
The drivers found her note in the feed ticket mailbox. It read: “Thanks for all you do and keeping the pigs fed.”
As her mother Alyce Nieland noted on her ‘Pigs and Kids’ Facebook page, “All you truckers deserve it. Thanks for keeping this country running.”
More than 850 pork sticks were distributed in late April among the New Hampton Community School District, Nashua-Plainfield Community Schools, and Sumner-Fredericksburg Schools.
Jodi Cerwinske, food service director with the New Hampton Community School District, said some of her district’s allotment would be included in backpacks of food sent home with students for the weekend.
“They were very appreciative,” said Joanne Tupper, who works with pork producers in Chickasaw County, in northeast Iowa.
The business community in Spencer arranged a pork loin giveaway May 1 to help both pork producers and area residents in need.
In just 10 days, Spencer area businesses took an idea to reality. That reality meant that nearly 11,000 pounds of pork loins were distributed in the community.
The Clay County Pork Producers arranged to purchase 1,700 loins from the Tyson plant in Storm Lake. Those loins were given to those in the community that had been impacted by job losses or reduced income. The group gathered in at the Clay County Fairgrounds to hand out the loins to those who came through in cars, trucks, and even some motorized scooters.
Howard/Chickasaw Pork Producers
School feeding programs continued even though students were staying home from school because of COVID-19 closures.
At Turkey Valley School District in Jackson Junction (northeast Iowa), the kitchen crew was providing 250 sack lunches daily until the school year would have officially ended May 20.
To help extend those meals, the Howard/Chickasaw County Pork Producers provided 500 pork snack sticks.
Diane Kuehn, the kitchen manager, said the sticks would be used in the sack lunches for two days.
As of mid-May, more than 18,000 pork sticks have been delivered to schools and front-line workers around the state.
Pig farmer and artist Lisa Rasmussen of Goldfield, who operates Lofty Lou boutique with her daughter Sarah, began sewing and donating headwraps and face masks to essential workers throughout her local community and beyond. Those in health care could sew buttons onto the headwraps—elastic loops from face masks would then secure around the buttons to give their ears a much-needed break from continuously wearing masks (see photo).
Others who purchased Lofty Lou items supported shipping and supply costs as Lisa continued to sew and send.
On April 23, she wrote on the Lofty Lou Facebook page: “Tonight’s stitching passed the 200 mark for both headwraps and face masks donated. Ever grateful for sewing skills taught by my momma (Susan Cowles Witzel) and endless 4-H projects created behind a sewing machine. Never did I believe this would become my mission. With the nightmares my industry is facing right now this is one way this Pork Producer FarmHer is trying to make a difference.”
The Jones County Pork Producers (JCPP) communicated with social media followers by posting reassuring messages and their efforts to strengthen the community.
On March 31, members delivered bags of pork sticks for those working on essential jobs that kept Iowa and pig farms operational. They went to five locations, including police departments, the local co-op, as well as health facilities.
On April 8, with the support of Jones County Farm Bureau, JCPP donated a pulled pork lunch for staff at Jones Regional Medical Center and boxed lunches for the staff at UnityPoint Clinic – Family Medicine – Monticello.
The county group also delivered pork cash to a local food bank, and to nominated individuals working on the front line.
Thanks to Osage pig farmer Brad Farmer and others in his community, 32 struggling families in the Mitchell County area received a processed quarter hog—more than 40 pounds of meat.
“Some of those stories were absolute tear-jerkers,” said Farmer, owner-operator of Farmer Stock & Grain with his wife, Kelci.
The Plymouth County Pork Producers reached out to pig farmers in their area to let them know that “you’re not alone.”
They delivered cookies to about 75 fellow pork producers and thanked them for their hard work, and also offered a quick reminder that “we will get through this together.”
Bob Puetz, a pig farmer near Le Mars, said the support was important to him.
“As farmers, we all believe that everything will be OK and we strive to make that possible. Please support American farmers and continue to buy our products,” he told his friends on Facebook.
As of May 4, Rachel Ehlers and her mom had 150 T-shirts ready to be sewn into tote bags for area food pantries.
The bags were made to hold prepacked food, particularly for mobile pantries offering drive-through service—where clients remain in their vehicles as food is loaded.
The Ehlers delivered several bags to the Buffalo Food Pantry in nearby Buffalo on May 12.
They also planned to give some to a pantry at Madison Elementary School in Davenport that’s run by their church, St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport.
Rachel, 13, the daughter of pig farmers Brian and Angie Ehlers from Walcott, is a seventh-grader at Walcott K-8 School.
Sioux County Pork Producers and Perdue Farms (Perdue Premium Meat Co./Sioux-Preme Packing Co.) donated 2,000 pounds of pork for a Drive-Through Community Food Distribution in Sioux Center on April 24.
All local families were invited to gather food supplies provided by area producers that also included Smithfield Foods (bacon), Farmers Coop Society (ground pork), Center Fresh Group (eggs), Sioux County Cattlemen (ground beef), and Sioux County Dairy Association with Western Iowa Dairy Alliance (cheese).
Watch the news report from KTIV in Sioux City.
Story County Pork Producers (SCPP) have been delivering pork snack sticks to essential employees across the county. One recipient noted that lining up nine sticks is equivalent to about 6 feet, the recommended distance individuals should stay apart to help prevent the spread of COVID-19!
The week of April 20, recipients included: Collins Community Fire Department, Colo Fire Rescue, Gilbert Fire Department, McCallsburg Fire Department, Mary Greeley Paramedics, Maxwell Fire Department, Nevada Fire Department, Story County Medical Center paramedics and Zearing Fire Department.
More recently, SCPP and several allied ag industry personnel from the Ames area supported area food pantries, local schools food pantries, and National Guard units from Des Moines and Boone. They donated 4,000 lbs. of pork to 25 to 30 different locations for service personnel and people in need.
Washington County Pork Producers provided essential front-line workers with $10 pork coupons as a thank you for their work.
The note to Washington County front-line workers included a “Thank you for everything that you do to keep our country strong, safe and healthy!
When Brenneman Pork posted this picture on their Instagram page, they pointed out that caring for each other is the only way the community can get through this pandemic together.
“We have always been blessed with an awesome community who’s first thought when adversity strikes is ‘How can we help?’”