Dairy family gives food bank a lift during COVID-19 pandemic
With most agricultural businesses suffering along with the rest of the U.S. economy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it isn’t easy to think of others when a lot of people in agriculture wonder if their own businesses and family farms will survive this crisis.
Severance, Colo., couple Adrian and Jaclyn Diepersloot, who own Wolf Creek Dairy, are experiencing the hardship firsthand as they watch prices for the milk they produce at their family dairy plummet 25-30 percent, and see some of their fellow dairymen nearing the point of bankruptcy. Despite hard times, the family has managed to keep the doors open, retain their employees, and keep milking cows.
“Despite what we are going through right now, we feel blessed,” Adrian Diepersloot said. “My wife and I were talking, and in light of this economic disaster and what everyone is going through, we felt the need to contribute in some way. People are out of work and the economy is hurting really bad. … We heard about the local food bank and how much food they need right now. It seemed like an area where we could step up and donate, and really make a difference.”
“We wanted to give back with a dairy product, since we are dairy farmers,” he said. “We are blessed that we have the ability to milk our cows amidst this turmoil, and keep providing for our employees and their families. We thought it fitting to give back to the people who can’t work during this time.”
On Good Friday, with help from his family and that of his farm manager, Diepersloot delivered 3,425 pounds of baby cheddar cheese to the Weld County Food Bank. The donation was valued at more than $10,000.
“We wanted to get our children involved so we all picked it up and dropped it off together. I wanted my children to have a chance to experience what is happening right now, instead of just telling them about it, so they will remember it,” he said. “We thought Good Friday was a fitting day to do it because it signifies a week of celebrating the sacrifice Christ made for us. We thought it would be a way we could honor that by somehow giving back to the economy and the people who are sacrificing for us right now.”
Bob O’Connor, who is the executive director of the Weld County Food Bank, said the donation filled a void during a tremendous time of need.
“We get donations on a regular basis, but very rarely cheese. Cheese is a great protein source with a longer shelf life. It was a well-received donation, and not just by us, but also by the people we serve, too.”
A GREAT NEED
Typically, 3,425 pounds of cheese would last the food pantry for a month, but they expected the donation to be exhausted within a week.
“This is the most difficult time I have ever experienced, and I’ve been here more than 20 years,” O’Connor said. “I’ve never seen anything like what is going on right now with the COVID-19. People are laid-off or have been unable to go to work because their businesses are closed. More than 20 percent of the people who are coming to the food bank have never been to one in their life, and this is just the beginning of it.”
Because of the demand, O’Connor said donations are really appreciated.
“Food is a little difficult to get right now because the food systems are slow, as you can tell by going to the grocery store. Deliveries have been delayed. To have (this cheese) right here, right now, to give to people has been a big plus. It’s incredible.”
The cheese will be distributed to people in emergency situations, experiencing a food shortage. It is also distributed through mobile pantries, who may not have any or enough refrigeration, where food is distributed directly to people around the county.
“We also work with about 85 nonprofit partners, who distribute food to the people they serve all throughout our county,” O’Connor said. “Our county is bigger than the state of Rhode Island, so this cheese has went 4,000 square miles. People are really impacted by this pandemic.”
O’Connor said most kinds of food donations are appreciated.
“Clients most often ask for meat or produce. Right now, we are also really short on non-perishable food,” he said.
To donate to the Weld County Food Bank, O’Connor can be reached at (970) 356-2199, extension 306.
Diepersloot hopes their donation will inspire other people to give.
“It’s our pleasure, as a family, to be able to help out in this time of distress. The Weld County Food bank has witnessed a dramatic increase in demand at a time when extra food has been hard to come by,” he said. “It’s a desperate situation, to say the least. Our family wanted to donate this cheese, not only to satisfy an immediate hardship in our community, but also to shed light on the fact that dairy farmers will continue to be here for people in need until we cannot anymore. Many in our industry are currently struggling desperately to stay afloat, but they keep showing up and working hard for a cause they believe in. Farmers play a crucial role in providing affordable and nutritious food to a hungry world. Believe me, I am not looking for a pat on the back, nor do I want attention, as there are plenty of people out there doing far more than myself. What I want to do is express my admiration and gratitude for my fellow dairy farmers.” ❖
— Clark is a freelance livestock journalist from western Nebraska. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.