Jenny Rhodes raises poultry and grains in Centerville, Maryland, and has worked tirelessly to maintain her farm through the COVID-19 crisis.
Farmers like Jenny across the country have been hit hard by impacts of the pandemic.
Jenny didn’t think she would be affected when the COVID-19 pandemic first made its way into the United States, but she soon saw the challenges ahead of her.
“As we got into that second week, things changed drastically,” she said. “We saw grain markets drop, and we saw processing plants that couldn't operate.”
As the virus spread, many processing plants either closed entirely or greatly limited the number of employees they allowed on the floor simultaneously. This dramatic decrease in slaughter and processing capacity meant that poultry farmers across the country continued to feed their birds while wondering if there would be a processing plant able to sell them to at some point in the foreseeable future.
Jenny had never worried about sending her chickens to the processing plant. But with the onset of COVID-19, the company for which she grows her poultry was faced with the challenging decision to humanely depopulate chickens. They simply didn’t have the capacity to process the birds before they grew too big for the facilities.
“I can tell you that I had lots of sleepless nights,” Jenny said. “I would be working in the chicken houses, feeling an emotional connection to the birds and think, ‘oh my gosh, what's going to happen?’”
While Jenny feels very fortunate that, in the end, all of her chickens made it to the processor in early May, she said that she can’t help but feel a little guilty, left to wonder if her friends and neighbors were so lucky.
Reflecting on her experience, Jenny expressed gratitude for the work that the federal and state government, specifically the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), have done to support producers like herself and help them get through the pandemic. And, on a more personal level, Jenny appreciated the efforts made by her Congressman and her Maryland Senators to learn directly from producers about the impacts they were facing from the crisis.
“They've had round table discussions and gotten producers like myself on the phone to say, ‘what can we do to help? We want to know what's going on.’”
MidAtlantic Farm Credit understands the challenges that farmers like Jenny are facing and has stood beside Jenny throughout these challenging times.