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Ag businesses supporting their customers through COVID-19 pandemic

Megan Silveira
for Tri-State Livestock News
D&M Ag Supply in Rapid City, S.D., is still open for business and is doing what they can to support agriculture.
Photo courtesy of D&M Ag Supply.

The production of food has been deemed “essential” in the world affected by COVID-19. While we think of ranchers, farmers and fruit and vegetable growers when we think of food production, the industries that support those businesses are just as essential.

“Everyone in the world is touched by the agriculture industry,” said Jana Shankle, owner of D&M Ag Supply in Rapid City, S.D. “People benefit from strong agriculture everywhere in the country even if they’ve never planted a seed or touched a cow.”

Recognizing the industry as vital to the health of the country, Shankle and her family decided to keep their business doors open during the national pandemic. With her husband, Paul, and two children, Mia and Jack, Shankle said D&M Ag Supply is working to do their part in supporting the agriculture community.

Shankle describes the family-owned business as an “A-Z feed store” as they offer hay and manufactured or mixed feeds to every rural and domesticated animal — from alpacas to zebras. Shakle said agriculture is an essential business, and to keep putting food on the table, individuals involved in the industry require the feed her family’s store offers.

“We continue doing what we do, so they can do what they need to do,” she said.

But feed is not the only ingredient used in the recipe for success in the agriculture industry. Trailers and equipment are vital to many farmers and ranchers, a fact Steve Burnett of Scott Murdock Trailer Sales in Loveland, Colo., knows better than anyone.

“The agriculture and construction industries have not stopped,” Burnett said as to why his business has stayed open during the pandemic. “We’re constantly taking care of those guys.”

Murdock Trailer Sales sells trailers of all kinds and offers customers a full-service shop for repair work. As work has not stopped for the workers in the agriculture and construction industries, Burnett said the company chose to keep their doors open as well.

“As far as agriculture goes, the food supply is such a critical thing,” he said. “It’s got to continue, and we’ve got to make sure we’re doing our part to keep that sector of the market active.”

In addition to helping customers by staying open, Burnett said he takes pride in knowing continued business is assisting his employees. He said he wants his employees taken care of and safe, and his team has been more than eager to complete necessary tasks during this unique situation.

“In no way have we required anyone to come to work, but our employees have all wanted to make sure that they’ve come and done their part,” he added.

Safety is a priority for both D&M Ag Supply and Murdock Trailer Sales. Shankle and Burnett report they have altered operations of their respective business to ensure the continued health and safety of both their customers and their employees.

Shankle said her business is taking phone orders and offering curbside service and delivery options. She said payments can be made over the phone, eliminating the need for any employee-customer contact at all.

Burnett said Murdock Trailer Sales has always offered pickup and delivery with equipment, but his team is working overtime to promote these services to their customers in light of the pandemic and social distancing recommendations. The work environment has shifted slightly as Burnett said staff work to keep services outside and eliminate close quarters.

Both companies have required the use of proper safety gear and enforced social distancing whenever possible.

Despite the drastic changes COVID-19 brought to the American population, Burnett and Shankle share a positive outlook for the future of the country.

Burnett suggests all people emphasize the importance of teamwork and safety. He said this is a battle we cannot win individually — the country needs to come together to combat the problem. With the resilience of the average American, Burnett said he knows we can overcome these trying times.

Looking toward the future, Shankle said things can be uncertain, but she and her team at D&M are working to continually serve their community in any way that they can. By providing consistent service, she said she hopes they can fulfill the needs of agriculturists.

“It’s important that we do what we can to keep this industry strong,” she said.

At the end of the day, Shankle said this pandemic has proven to her once again that people involved in the agriculture industry are the cream of the crop. Even as things remain uncertain, she said agriculturists continue to take of each other and their consumers. The innovation and ambition the members of the agriculture industry are demonstrating during this time is a nod to the American spirit, Shankle said.

“Americans are strong and determined,” she said. “It’s going to take some grit and hard work for us to pull through this, but you don’t have to look very far within the agriculture industry to find those qualities.” ❖


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