GUEST COLUMN

Gov. Laura Kelly
Gov. Laura Kelly

Kansans have shown incredible resilience and compassion during this pandemic. We have sacrificed normal routines and celebrations to protect each other - businesses have struggled, workers have been laid off, and more than 300 of our friends and neighbors have died because of COVID-19.

Kansans across the state have stepped up to confront the new challenges we are facing, and none more so than our agriculture community.

In the midst of the worst public health crisis we’ve seen in a century, our agriculture workers have successfully maintained the food supply chain and are still proudly feeding our state, our nation, and the world.

Recently, I had the chance to visit Brookover Feed Yards in Garden City. Not only did I leave with more knowledge on their day-to-day operations, but I was reminded of the strength and grit of the people who live and work in our rural communities. They are smart, humble, and incredibly hardworking. They have overcome struggles and challenges, they work long hours, and they are always ready to help a friend or neighbor in need.

Like all agricultural businesses, Brookover was not immune to the hardships and strain caused by COVID-19.

No matter how many head of cattle are healthy, fed, and available, if nearby meatpacking plants are processing fewer cattle, Brookover and feed yards like it cannot sell their product. Fortunately, here in Kansas, we have taken steps to safely keep our meatpacking plants open. Production may have slowed, but we made sure our supply chain could continue, and feed yards could still provide packers with quality product.

Brookover Feed Yards has been in the Brookover family since 1951. They work hard, use commonsense, and do what it takes to make sure the cattle get fed twice a day, every day, so they can go on to a packing plant, a grocery store, and eventually, your dinner table.

After all the challenges they’ve faced, they wake up each day with a renewed commitment to their mission - and I admire their tenacity.

Farmers, ranchers, meat processing plant workers and so many other members of the agricultural community adapted quickly, and did what was necessary to keep food on the tables of Kansas families.

When people take their weekly trip to the grocery store or visit their favorite restaurant, many may not consider the immense amount of work behind each product - nor do they truly consider what the “food supply chain” means. But in times of crisis, we see it more clearly.

Every link of that chain is critical to keeping food on our plates. Links like the milk haulers who deliver milk from dairies to processing plants, or the milling companies who mill wheat in to flour so we can bake bread at home.

Links like the workers in meat processing plants who put in long hours to supply us with quality protein products, or the greenhouse growers who make sure we have fresh vegetables year-round.

Links like the grocery store workers who restock the shelves in the middle of the night, and the Kansas wheat farmer who, despite the seemingly overwhelming challenges, still wakes up each morning to work the ground that was passed down to him by generations of farmers before him.

In Kansas, our agricultural industry has faced adversity. It has faced droughts and flooding. It has adapted to fluctuating commodity markets and trade agreements with other countries. No matter what the challenge, they have persevered in a way only Kansans can - and COVID-19 is no different.

We cannot take for granted what our farmers do for us, and for people around the world. They put their health and safety on the line for all of us to keep fed during the pandemic, and now we must be more grateful than ever for our neighbors and friends in the Kansas agricultural community.