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.
One of the industries that has seen the most significant change in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic is local grocers. From installing shields to protect customers and employees at the checkout, to limiting purchases and restricting the number of shoppers at one time, grocers have had to keep up with a rapidly changing environment.
Ron’s Supermarket has been a part of the Pittsburg community for many years but has never been through something quite like this.
When the coronavirus pandemic spread to the region, Ron Rhodes, owner of Ron’s Supermarket in Pittsburg, Kansas, said one of their first concerns was the safety and wellbeing of their staff, their families and the customers.
It was decided that the store will stay open but with the focus on keeping everyone healthy, with the installation of plexiglass at the checkout stations, hand sanitizers at the registers and throughout the stores, and decals marking the recommended 6 feet for social distancing on the floor. The store has also increased its cleaning services.
Ron’s followed advice from the Kansas Food Dealers Association, National Grocers Association and National Retail Federation. Each morning — and sometimes multiple times a day — the organizations shared information on COVID-19, from sanitation to compliance.
“Followed the guidelines and watched lots of webinars,” Rhodes said.
When people realized that they were not going to be able to get out or may be quarantined, they started to do a lot of “heavy buying,” Rhodes said, “from canned goods to dried beans, to pastas — everything to make meals at home. Business was very busy as they stocked their cupboards and filled up knowing they could be restricted to home. Obviously, we went through the lack of bath tissue and other products.”
Reminiscent of the “old fashioned way” of ordering groceries for delivery, there was an increase of people ordering groceries online. Both existing and new customers began ordering online and through telephone for pick-up and delivery. Rhodes said that he was glad online ordering was set up long before the pandemic, as it allowed existing and new customers to have groceries picked up or delivered to their home.
“That was something that went away in the ‘70s and hasn’t been done in a long time,” he said. “Now all of the sudden we are back into doing it.”
With all the shopping some of the items became out of stock, which brought another issue to light. Suppliers were having challenges because the warehouses had a difficulty keeping up with supply, Rhodes said, adding that all grocery stores were experiencing these issues.
Although some items have been spotty, Rhodes said they are continually looking for products to fill the shelves and plan to make announcements when some items are back in stock on the store's Facebook page.
Before recent openings, when several area restaurants closed because of the state orders, their products were sold to the grocery store helping increase some of the stock.
Rhodes said he believes that many of the sanitization and other precautions will continue at various degrees when the pandemic is over.
“I think this has been a real wakeup call for everyone and I think everyone moving forward is going to relax some and be more open and less cautious about social distancing as time goes,” he said. “But I think a lot of the things that we’ve implemented and a lot of the things people do individually to stay safe, I think they will become practices and habits that will continue for a quite while and certainly as we look at predictions for fall recurrence and other things, I think that not only some of the things that we have now will stay in place, I think there will be more things that will come about that I think we can do.”
Outside the store and local community, Rhodes said he thinks that on a national level, there will be more inspections in processing and packing plants.
“As we have moved through this, we’ve always appreciated our staff and our customers and during this time, we’ve grown a much deeper appreciation for our staff. They have really stepped up. They have really volunteered to work extra hours, done extra cleaning — they have been really committed.”
Rhodes applauded his staff and the customers for their kindness and patience, even during times when items were out of stock.
“Our customers have been very patient, very kind, very complimentary and been very good to deal with, so that’s been a very refreshing aspect,” he said.