SALT LAKE CITY — Launched just last week, the Farmers Feeding Utah campaign has raised nearly $100,000 to buy agricultural products stranded by the food supply chain upheaval and deliver that food to Utah families in need.
While the campaign has garnered $81,000 in online contributions, it hopes to reach the goal of $100,000 by May 20 to help facilitate delivery of $100,000 dollars worth of lamb to Utah members of the Navajo Nation, which has been hit hard by COVID-19.
It’s called the Miracle Project.
“We didn’t know what to expect, but we are sure excited about it,” said Ron Gibson, president of the Utah Farm Bureau. “The cool thing is it has mostly been small donations from people who want to help.”
The farm bureau started the effort in conjunction with the Utah Department of Food and Agriculture, along with Utah State University’s Hunger Solutions Institute and other hunger relief organizations.
FarmersfeedingUtah.org takes financial donations to purchase meat, livestock, produce and dairy products that are in a logjam and can’t get to market because of the drastic reduction in demand. The majority of the agricultural market goes to food service — such as restaurants, hotels and cruise ships — all idled for months by the economic shutdown over the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is kind of a cool thing that we are able to help both sides like this,” Gibson said.
Farmers and ranchers across the country have been forced to euthanize their animals, let produce go to waste or dump milk because of the lack of demand or shuttered meat processing plants.
“One of the hardest hit industries in our state is our sheep producers who have been totally devastated. To be able to buy lamb from them and give it to someone in need makes me really happy,” Gibson said.
The lamb shipments to the Navajo, hopefully later this month, will play out in two different ways.
Because many households in the Navajo Nation lack freezers or refrigerators, one shipment of 25,000 pounds will be in cut and packaged meat, while the remaining shipment will be live lambs, Gibson said.
“We don’t want to show up with a bunch of meat that will go to waste,” Gibson said, adding the live lambs can be slaughtered by the Navajo who have the ability and background for that task.
“We are aware of the various difficulties many are experiencing due to this pandemic and realize that an effective pandemic response requires the whole community to pull together,” said Anna Boynton, state tribal liaison for the Utah Division of Emergency Management. “We’re grateful to the Utah Farm Bureau for their efforts to build this program and are excited about the assistance it will provide to the people of the Navajo Nation who are in need during this unprecedented time.”
Gibson said the farm bureau is in the midst of planning a second campaign based another $17,000 it has received in checks, with more details to be released at a later date.