Credit: SEAN POWERS/GPB
How One Georgia Farmer Turned The Coronavirus Crisis Into An Opportunity For Service
The closure of schools, restaurants and hotels has wreaked havoc on the nation’s food supply. Dairy farmers are pouring out milk, hog prices are plummeting, and unhatched eggs are being crushed.
Jon Jackson is executive director of StagVets and founder of Comfort Farms in Milledgeville. He relies on veterans to help raise heritage breeds of animals and produce — specialty items that were once in big demand from some of Georgia’s top restaurants. Now, Jackson is making them available to hungry families through a virtual farmers market.
“It’s easy to go into anxiety mode, when you realize that your income from the farm to sustain is gone,” Jackson said of his reaction to the news that coronavirus would be shutting much of his farm’s anticipated income streams down. “I was given the situation, and in less than 24 hours I turned our farm into a virtual farmers market for addressing the needs of our community.”
Jackson, who served multiple tours in Iraq, uses his farm as a way to help other veterans get back on their feet. For him, getting into farming was a natural extension of life after war.
“I didn’t want to be around a whole bunch of people,” Jackson shared of his decision to become a farmer. “And I still wanted my work and my contribution to have some meaning. And what better way than to grow food, and to deal with Mother Nature?”
He also reflected on the ways that his new community farmers market is helping people stay connected during social isolation.
“We have people who are very detached from society,” he said. “Our farmers markets are a way for them to do the slow crawl back into their new normal.”
Jackson also provided a virtual tour of his farm for GPB’s What You Need To Know: Coronavirus series, which you can watch here.
On transitioning away from selling to restaurants
It's easy to go into anxiety mode when you realize that your income for the farm to sustain is gone. I was given the situation, and, in less than 24 hours, I turned our farm into a virtual farmer's market for addressing the needs of our community that wanted to maintain social distancing and still have a way to get really good, nutritionally-dense food to their families. We did that in less than 24 hours and we have fed over 400 families.
On assisting veterans at Comfort Farms
[Comfort Farms is] for veterans who are going through acute crisis. They're having some temporary meltdown. What we do is kind of absorb that for them [by] getting to work and really being able to distance themselves from what's affecting them. That has really been our golden ticket to getting vets back on the right track.
On how Jackson believes the world will be changed after the pandemic
You know, I tell people [...] that the worst thing to happen out of the corona pandemic is not dying from coronavirus. The worst thing that can happen to you is going back to the way that you used to live by taking life for granted. Everybody knows that prior to corona, we had it good as Americans, the world over — we had it good. But what this has taught us — corona, in my opinion, the virus has slowed us all down. The Earth, in my opinion, is taking a break from us. That's how I'm looking at it.
Many people around here, they come to the farm, they'll get out, they'll walk with their family. They haven't done those things before. I know fathers right now who are making dinner for their kids. They come here, they're doing family meals together. These are the things that we did not do prior to corona. So, I'm looking at it as that silver lining in the sky, although, yes, people are suffering. But, you know what? The highlight of all of this is that we're becoming more human again. And we realize that the most important things in life are the basics that we need in life. And so to go back the way that we were, that's worse than dying from corona, in my opinion.
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