It’s no secret our economy has nearly come to a screeching halt as both small and large businesses shut down or altered hours because people were asked to stay home.
Things are starting to slowly open back up, but there are two industries that were not able to halt any operation – finance and agriculture. After all, people need to eat and they need access to their money, regardless of what is going on in the world.
I am fortunate to be involved in both industries. On the bank side, we made some changes to comply with the new rules – limiting lobby access at all of our banking centers, encouraging those who could to work from home, highlighting our mobile products and so much more.
But in agriculture, especially the production side, there’s no changing the operation. Unlike manufacturing and other industries, production-based agriculture is based in biology, which means the crops and animals keep growing no matter how much you need them to stop. The rub comes when it’s time to turn those crops and animals into products for the consumer. As many have discovered, there is bottleneck in that transformation process. These facilities have the capability to shut down when needed, but the production farmer is left holding with bag with products that keep on getting bigger.
This isn’t news to our farmers and ranchers, but it is does bring up the point that it’s times like these that make us consider our operations and how we can weather these times. For many farmers that I am in contact with, diversification is clearly a key component to survival. Just like a retirement advisor will recommend multiple options for your portfolio, farm diversification will help minimize risk when things get dicey.
The truth is, however, that farm diversification tends to remain focused around production. Crops are raised next to calves, poultry farms are operated alongside a clean out business, a dairy farmer will also sell seed and chemicals. Part of this is due to entry barriers such as financial or physical capabilities, while some of it is due to just lack of time to develop a new business.
But maybe now is an opportunity for production farmers to consider expanding up instead of getting out. Local farmers markets are busier than ever. Small processing plants are working overtime and are booked out until 2021. Roadside stands, U-pick farms, and other similar on-farm selling points are gaining more interest. Groups are being formed to put the public in direct contact with production farms and local processors. With a visible shortage on supermarket shelves, the public is taking more notice of where their food comes from.
There are a lot of obstacles between the farmer and the customer, but the current economic crisis could certainly break some of these barriers. Anything is possible with the ingenuity and toughness of the American farmer and rancher.
Jessica Allan is an agricultural lender and commercial relationship manager at Guaranty Bank in Neosho, Mo. A resident of Jasper County, Mo., she is also involved in raising cattle on her family’s farm in Newton County and is an active alum of the Crowder College Aggie Club. She may be reached at