It’s time to celebrate community.
On Friday, April 16, the Ottumwa community was the focus of a “Thank You” celebration from Iowa’s pig farmers for the support shown to those who work in bringing food from farm to table.
“Lifting spirits on challenging days and providing inspiration to help others clear the hurdles in front of them are ways you have touched the hearts of farmers,” said local pig farmer Heidi Vittetoe. “The way you make people feel matters. And as we’ve gone through the pandemic, the Ottumwa community made us feel like part of a team.”
Vittetoe noted the great efforts that JBS Pork in Ottumwa made to keep people safe, while keeping the plant open for the people who work there and for the farmers who sell their pigs there.
Ottumwa Mayor Tom Lazio also noted that the past year helped everyone realize who the essential workers were: from moms and dads who stayed home with children as schools closed, to those who work behind the scenes to keep the city functioning, such as those at the waste water treatment plant. He also gave credit to those that kept manufacturing at work in Ottumwa, as well as the police and fire departments. “We may be ‘Iowa Nice’,” he said, but we’re also Iowa hard-working.”
TJ Heller of Greater Ottumwa Partners in Progress noted that “during times of trial, people either give up or push through to greatness. Ottumwa businesses did the latter, and moved to the future by ‘calling audibles’ that led to sharing staff to help other businesses and developing technology so they had a stronger virtual presence.”
As part of their “Thank You” celebration, the Iowa pork producers donated $500 of pork to the Food Bank of Iowa, which provides food assistance in the Ottumwa area. The pork producers also provided pork coupons to local grocery stores for consumers to use, and pork thank-you baskets to local first responders.
The day wrapped up with a giveaway at the Bridge View Center parking lot of nearly 5000 pounds of pork to Ottumwa-area residents. That giveaway equals almost 20,000 meals or servings of pork. Families each received a four-to-five-pound pork loin, and through the assistance of the police and fire departments, 1,000 vehicles moved through the lot in record time.
The past 12 months have reminded us about the importance of community when times are challenging and uncertain. Uncertainty and challenges are still ahead. “It matters that we all work together in keeping people safe as our work continues to feed your families, neighbors, and others,” Vittetoe said.
Lazio echoed that thought, noting “It takes a healthy community to get through what we have this past year.”