SUFFOLK, Va. - Making sure food stays on the table always circles back to farmers. In Virginia and North Carolina, farming is a way of life for many and a big contributor to the economy.
Like many other trades, the coronavirus is hitting the cattle industry hard. According to a recent study by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, it's estimated the cattle industry could lose upwards of $13.6 billion as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Suffolk beef cattle farmer John Christmas says his farm doesn't necessarily fall in the scope of that prediction. He says since the beginning of COVID-19, his family has had to adjust operations on their property, Udder Chaos Farms, but their sales are actually up.
They have seen community members turning to their grass-fed beef when grocery store supply has been down.
“People have showed up and driven down our driveway, people that we’ve never seen before. [They'll say], 'Hey, we heard you sell beef and pork and eggs. [...] Well, they're out at the store... can we buy some beef?'" Christmas says.
He believes their steady income is because Udder Chaos Farms is on the smaller side - meaning their beef goes directly to a family or individual rather than to food chains and restaurants.
"[Our main customers are] friends, family, church members, folks at the farmers market - hometown people like ourselves," Christmas says.
To oblige with social distancing guidelines John and Jennifer Christmas are offering deliveries, minimum of $100.00, to families homes. People are asked to put a cooler outside and the couple will place the ordered meat inside. The customer will check the order and give the couple a 'thumbs up' that everything is just right.
Udder Chaos Farms is also participating in drive-thru farmer's markets to get their product to people.
Christmas says the consumer demand has slightly changed because people can't see or feel their meat before they purchase it, but they are still seeing a steady stream of customers.
The farm raises Angus beef cows from calf to adult cow, and they are grass- and hay-fed. They also have free range chickens that are fed with non-GMO feed. John's wife, Jennifer, says their eggs sell out every weekend at the farmers markets.
As for the industry as a whole, the study conducted by the NCBA shows cow-calf producers will see the largest impact, with COVID-19-related losses totaling an estimated $3.7 billion, or $111.91 per head for each mature breeding animal in the United States.
“It’s only because of the extraordinary circumstances we face today that cattle producers need relief. While we appreciate the many members of Congress who supported the cattle industry and ensured cattle producers were eligible for relief funds, we need these same members to do more to make certain every cattle producer who needs relief can access funding. That’s why we’re calling today for additional funds to be made available specifically for cattlemen and women,” said said NCBA CEO Colin Woodall in a press release.
While the future is still unclear, one thing is for sure - the folks at Udder Chaos Farms will not stop working or providing for the people who rely on them.
"We haven’t changed our prices in seven years, and we’re not going to do it now because the people need us," he says. "We just want to bless those who bless us in anyway that we can it’s very humbling."
For a full breakdown of specials, prices and offers head to the farm's Facebook page by clicking here.