Rebuilding America: From farm to table, food supplies in the COVID-19 pandemic
Across the nation, the coronavirus pandemic has affected almost every aspect of life, from school and church to the workplace and the dinner table.
Supply chain issues and the closure of several of America's largest meat and poultry processing plants due to COVID-19 have caused both shortages and soaring meat prices.
Supermarket cases loom empty and many stores have imposed limits on how much the consumer can purchase. For those who want to indulge in the favorite American summer pastime of grilling, that could spell disaster were it not for local farmers. Hamburger has become both pricey and hard to find and so has the traditional Sunday roast beef.
Local farms have stepped up to the plate to feed America.
In Neosho, Reiboldt Farms Market is there to provide quality beef, pork, chicken, bacon and eggs. In addition to all those items, they will also offer homegrown produce - which is how the market began.
The market is located on the Reiboldt family farm just outside Neosho, a working farm that's been in the family since 1942.
"It began when we started raising pumpkins a few years back," Bryan Reiboldt, the farmer who would rather be in the field than at the market, said.
From pumpkins, they expanded the crops to include sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, cucumbers and squash. The produce was sold to the public last summer.
In October, they opened the market in a small, rustic building near the highway. They sell farm-raised beef, pork, chicken and eggs.
"When we started, we just did ground beef," Heather Reiboldt, Bryan's wife, recalled. "Now we have steaks and roasts and pork roasts. We've grown since we opened."
Reiboldt Farms Market also sells bacon and sausage from their animals and both are popular. They also offer chicken, eggs, and honey.
The addition of meat to what they offered prompted them to open a market on the farm, adjacent to US Highway 60. When they opened last fall, however, no one could have imagined the meat shortages that would come less than six months later. During an interview for The Neosho Daily News, the Reiboldts were confident they wouldn't run out of meat - after all, they had multiple freezers with processed meats ready to be sold.
Then came the coronavirus and the previously unthinkable happened - they sold out.
That, however, didn't stop them from providing meat for the table.
Using social networking, Heather Reiboldt began taking orders and when they have the items in stock,, she lets customers know and they come out to the market.
"When people buy our meat, they come back and say they never tasted a pork chop or steak like that," Heather said."They've never had anything fresh from the farm. We have a lot of people who come back and say this is all they want now. We like that."
Even before the pandemic hit, a growing desire to know where the food on the table originates was part of what prompted the family to diversify from their homegrown produce.
"We realized people really want to know where their food comes from these days," Heather Reiboldt said. "People have gone back to that. We raise all the meat here and lots of produce. We just decided maybe it was time to share that."
Reiboldt Farms Market also sells bacon and sausage from their animals and both are popular.
"It's hard keeping up with the bacon (demand)," Bryan said. "People don't realize there's just a certain amount of bacon on a pig. They think you can make bacon with any cut. So we have pork chops, brats and ham steaks too."
The market offers chicken packaged as breasts, wings, drumsticks, or thighs as well as smaller than average chickens. "We do that on purpose," Heather said. "A lot of older folks who stop here want the smaller chickens so they average about two pounds."
"I was raised butchering our own chickens," Bryan said. "It seems odd to me to load chickens up in a trailer and take them to get processed. Every chicken goes down an assembly line and a USDA inspector inspects every bird. Beef's the same, it's inspected. He's there when they butcher, when they cut up, when they package. All the meat is frozen. It's butchered, frozen and vacuum sealed when fresh."
"Speaking of chickens, we have white eggs and brown eggs," Bryan said. "An egg's an egg but people like the difference."
The market also sells local honey. "It's the only thing not raised here," Bryan said. "We've been building fence since 6:30 this morning. I'd rather be out on the tractor. I like to raise it."
The Reiboldts plan to expand the market, possibly adding a pavilion and hoop houses to extend the growing season. They've already started tomato plants and will soon plant potatoes.
The farm stretches on both sides of U.S. 60 and across the road from the market, Bryan indicated that's where he will plant sweet corn and pumpkins. Behind the market, barns and a silo are evidence of the working farm status and those who listen close can hear the chickens and other livestock.
The market has repeat customers, some who drive from as far away as Miami, Oklahoma.
In addition to the farm raised foods, Heather also has some gift items and home decor. "I had to have something fun," she said.
"It's three generations at this location," Bryan said, about the family farm. With the couple's boys now growing up, it's four generations. "
We're basically trying to make the farm more profitable for the next generation," Bryan said. "If you look around, there's not a whole lot of land left to buy."
Reiboldt Farm Market is located at 15947 Business Highway 60 just east of Neosho. The best way to find out when they're open and stocked is to like the Reiboldt Farm Market page on Facebook.
That page is where customers can find availability, prices and more.
Farm to table doesn't come any fresher than this and the Reiboldts are doing what farmers have done since the earliest time - they're raising food to feed people. And that is more important now more than ever.
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