People adapt to new normal with more local food

Raised-bed garden

As the uncertainty of 2020 keeps pressing forward, people are adapting to their new normal. I am impressed with the perseverance of our county residents that I see on a day-to-day basis in the middle of this pandemic. On a number of my site visits throughout the county, I am witnessing residents taking it upon themselves to self-sustain.

During the past couple of months, we have seen many of our principal items we took for granted becoming hard to come by such as groceries and raw materials. However, people are taking it upon themselves to do what our forefathers have done so many generations ago: provide for their own.


Residents are now planting more gardens, utilizing more of the natural resources on their own land and sourcing local. Many county residents have taken up intensive poultry grazing. I have seen a number of poultry grazing pens being constructed for mobile use since the onset of COVID-19.

In addition to these mobile grazing units, permanent coops for broilers and layers are also being built in large numbers. High tunnels are popping up more often here in the county as residents look to various means for extended and year round crop growing. The Natural Resources Conservation Service offers potential funding for construction of these high tunnels, if one qualifies.

These high tunnels offer residents extended growing seasons, and micro management of crops they might not otherwise be able to grow in Ohio. I have even seen one person trying fish cultivation in a small half acre pond. Like one says, “if you have lemons, make lemonade!”

This scenario is playing out throughout the county. Residents are utilizing their available natural resources to better serve the new needs of their families.

Local beef

There is now an increased demand for local farm raised beef. During the peak of the pandemic some shortages for ground beef were witnessed. The current problem is being able to have your animal harvested in a timely manner to its finishing date as local butcher shops are now booked months out in advance.

Farmers are now turning cull cows into ground beef versus taking them to the local livestock market. Individuals that once took their cull cows to the local livestock auction are now, at times, taking their cattle to their local butchers to be processed into ground beef. I have spoken with a number of these individuals and they have sold out of their ground beef in a matter of days.


Canning supplies are now in high demand. What my wife once found relatively easy to find in canning supplies, can now become a challenge. The garden we planted this year is larger than it was last year and with more diversity in vegetables.

We, along with others, planted a larger array of crops due to the uncertainty of food availability and the desire and need to be self-sustaining and provide for our family’s needs. Old family canning recipes now seem to be a hot topic at family gatherings — with proper social distancing of course.

Local shops

So where does one source the items for canning if you don’t have a garden from which to harvest these items? A number of local “mom & pop” stores have sprouted up in our area. You see them packed every weekend with city folks rushing out to get their “country fresh” products. This is a great thing! It funds the local economy.

I am fortunate in that where I live, there are about three to five of these local produce stores in a five mile radius. If you have not done so yet, I urge you to take a drive around your community to see where your local produce markets are at. You may even be surprised to find some road side stands that fit the bill!

Farm directory

In closing, our friends at OSU Extension are currently working on a project to benefit both producers and consumers. OSU Extension’s project will enhance, not only our locally economy but it will also provide a healthier food options for folks by identifying where to purchase local foods.

Thanks to support from the Mahoning County Commissioners, we at Mahoning County Extension, along with partnership from Mahoning County Farm Bureau, are working to develop a “Buy Farm Fresh” directory to encourage our communities to support and buy from our local farms and direct marketers.

The directory will include meats, poultry, produce, maple syrup, honey, horticulture and agritourism operations in Mahoning County.

If you are a direct marketer and have not yet been contacted, feel free to reach out to Mahoning County OSU Extension at 330-533-5538.


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