Mandates and afflictions caused by COVID-19 continue to have repercussions on the nation’s economy and food supply.
More and more consumers want to know where their food is coming from as more and more farmers are struggling with sales.
Rick McNary of Potwin, Kansas, wants to get the two groups together. One week ago, he set up a Facebook page, Shop Kansas Farms, and invited a dozen or so members.
Word spread. As of May 6, membership on the Facebook page is just north of 5,000. Both consumers and producers have joined this free page.
"We’re watching what the price of beef is. Our kids will be selling their 4H animals soon," said Wadona Henson of Meade, Kansas. "If I saw asparagus, rhubarb or eggs (in my area) on there, I would probably purchase them."
McNary has arranged his site by region. Julia Strnad of Strnad Land & Cattle in Wellington, Kansas receives at least one call each day since the site began. She runs a purebred Charolais cattle operation.
"It’s great to have another way to sell our product," Strnad said. "Now, I’m trying to figure out how many (cattle) I’m going to butcher. It’s a good problem to have."
For Connie and Tim Gross, this group will help fill in the sales gaps from their farmers market visits. The Gross’ run Turkey Knob Farm in St. John, Kansas. They sell homemade jellies, jams and pickles, along with eggs and fresh produce.
"Now all of a sudden people can go to that site and find us," said Tim Gross of Turkey Knob. "It gives us a chance to get exposure."
Although McNary is not a farmer, he said he admires farmers and ranchers and wanted to help them.
"With the supply chain breaking, I thought this was a good way to connect people who are looking to buy with people who are looking to sell," McNary said. "The ability to build local and regional food systems is of tremendous interest and pressing need."
McNary is especially interested in reaching farmers and ranchers statewide. Both Ryan Brady of Instinct Bison Producers in Ingalls, Kansas and Chad Basinger of Basinger Land & Cattle in Pretty Prairie, Kanas are interested in joining. Both young ranchers have sold their meat on a variety of online sites and are looking for other outlets.
"This is something that would interest us," said Ryan Brady of Instinct Bison.
Whether producers large or small are selling basil plants, pork chops or heirloom tomatoes, McNary is providing Kansans with a way for consumers to connect with the farmers and ranchers who raise their food.
"When something goes viral, it has touched a nerve," McNary said. "I want to be known as the farmer’s biggest cheerleader."