Neighbor Helping Neighbor: A Story of Good Will During Tough Times

Posted on Sep 4, 2020

Dairy giveaway made possible through CFAP and community volunteers

Last May, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which provided up to $16 billion in direct payments to farmers affected by market instability as a result of the pandemic.

“These payments will help keep farmers afloat while market demand returns as our nation reopens and recovers,” he said. “America’s farmers are resilient and will get through this challenge just like they always do with faith, hard work, and determination.”

As part of the CFAP funding, $3 billion was allocated for the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program to purchase fresh produce, dairy, and meat and to deliver boxes to Americans in need.

The Kentucky Dairy Development Council (KDDC) applied for funding to do just that. Through their efforts, they secured processing thanks to Prairie Farms and Borden, transportation thanks to Mike Owens Trucking Company, countless community volunteers, and of course, the milk provided by many Kentucky dairy farm families. This series of dairy product giveaways took place in various locations across the state.

One such stop came on a recent hot July morning in Stanford. A line of vehicles began to fill the gravel road that winds through the Lincoln County Fairgrounds early that morning, long before the announced start time of the event.

This site that would normally be hosting a county fair this time of year, found itself being a place of hope and comfort for those affected financially by COVID-19.

The Stanford stop was just one of about 15 different distribution efforts. And the story from each stop was similar, said KDDC Executive Director H.H. Barlow.

“We had long lines everywhere we’ve been, but everyone has been patient and very appreciative of what we’re doing,” he said. “At every stop we've made, we've given away a tractor trailer load of dairy products, and we have heard the same thing: people tell us how badly they needed this food.”

KDDC headed up the distribution of the dairy products because of a stipulation set forth under the regulations of CFAP that non-profit organizations had to be the entities to distribute the food.  

But Barlow said it has definitely been a team effort by a lot of dedicated people, businesses, and organizations that have gladly participated.

Meredith Scales, a KDDC Dairy Consultant, has been one of the main organizers of these various dairy giveaways and has attended each of the events.

“It is such a good feeling to know that you're helping people, because everyone, no matter what, has been affected by this virus,” he said. “The thing that has probably surprised me the most is the kind of volunteer participation we are seeing at each stop. The first trailer load I thought would take 10 hours to unload, but we moved 1,200 boxes in three hours and 20 minutes. It's probably the greatest humanitarian effort I've ever been involved in."

Scales added that because of the CFAP funding, much needed revenue is going to help farmers during this time of uncertainty while also helping those in need. It is a win-win situation, he said.

Barlow said many stories had been shared at each stop, including a visit he recalled in Casey County with a long-time county Farm Bureau director and retired dentist who, at 89 and a half, was helping move boxes of milk from the trailer to the vehicles.

“I couldn’t help but notice him and how hard he was working,” Barlow said. “His name was Dr. Brown, and he said he just loved to help when he could, and we have had volunteers like him everywhere we have gone.”  

Harvey Franklin, the agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Lincoln County High School (LCHS), accompanied many of his students to the Stanford event to help unload and load food boxes.

“We sent out a message on our group chat and got 26 students here to participate,” he said. “In addition to helping their neighbors by being here, I think these students are learning the value of the three components of our FFA program of activities: developing leadership skills, they are supporting and strengthening agriculture through this project, and by participating in community service, they are helping to build communities.”

Aaron Cook, a senior at LCHS, was one of the FFA members who participated. He said he had never been involved in such a project like this one.

“I think the main thing I will take away from being involved is how important it is to help in times of need, especially at times like this, when everybody's going to need some kind of assistance,” he said. “And it's events like this that helps people get through and we hope to do more. This is really something special.”

Jason Baker, a branch manager with Prairie Farms, helped with traffic control and had volunteered at many of the giveaway sites.

“I personally have participated in several of these events and with each and every one, it feels more gratifying to be a part of this whole process,” he said. “Prairie Farms has long been a good partner with Kentucky dairies and the federal funding that made this possible really helps on all sides. From the producer, to those working in the plant, and the consumer. It helps everybody involved and it’s been a blessing.”

Joyce Baker, from nearby Waynesburg, was picking up food for her adult children who couldn’t be at the Stanford event. She said people are despondent and heartbroken over this virus and their hard times, but she knows that rural communities stick together in good times and bad.

“I just appreciate so much people coming together, being there for each other. That's what God wants us to do,” Baker said.

Barlow emphasized he is hoping more funding becomes available to continue these types of events because the need is so great.  

“The stories people are telling will just break your heart,” he said. “In one location, an elderly couple pulled up to the loading area, and I ask how many boxes they needed. The lady looked away and held up one finger. I asked her if she was sure that’s all she needed, and then she turned to me and said they were starving. We immediately filled up that car. That’s what it’s all about; helping our neighbors through this and right now, we are all neighbors.”