Ranch reflections – COVID-19 impact felt throughout agriculture

Ranch Reflections are articles written by students who want to share their experiences, thoughts, and concerns. This is a great opportunity for students to branch out beyond traditional news stories.  This edition features story featuring “Mustang Ahead” staff writer’s Mackenzie Sisson father.

Mackenzie Sisson- Mustangs Ahead

free farm pix -400(LAKEWOOD RANCH, FL) – Amid this global pandemic, many are concerned about the safety and welfare of people on the s0-called frontlines such as nurses and first-responders.

But what many people may not have recognized is the impact COVID-19 has had on local farms.

At first glance, all the empty shelves in the grocery store may lead one to believe that the agriculture industry is faring well, as people are stockpiling goods out of panic.

Workers up the commodity chain, however, are facing much deeper problems.

Jeremy Sisson is a senior tomato breeder for an internationally-leading vegetable breeding company called Enza Zaden.

He explained some of the trends the company has observed over these past few weeks.

“I work in seed sales at a research center based in Myakka; since restaurants have been shut down and since fewer people have been booking hotels, the demand for food service products has dropped,” said Sisson

Sisson also mentioned that due to the decreased demand for food, growers can’t move their products. That means growers are no longer purchasing as many seeds.

Consumers are also being affected directly. “Food banks are overwhelmed as there are so many non- perishable items due to overproduction, creating a shift in the demand for such items,” said Sisson.

Communication also plays a massive role in determining how food will reach the table. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has hindered these interactions and made the decision-making process more difficult.

“One of the most important parts of my job is visiting other countries and running trials for diseased crops, but the global travel ban has made me unable to do this,” said Sisson.

Despite all the negative outcomes, things may be starting to look up, as agricultural workers are seeing a promising future.

“It has gotten better for local tomato and pepper producers as the virus has caused a slowing of crops coming in through the Southern border; local economies are beginning to recover. We’ve also found new ways to show trials such as Microsoft Teams and speak with clients across the globe.”

If there is one positive that’s come out of this pandemic it’s the adaptation of local companies, essential and non-essential alike, and finding new ways to meet the needs of the public and continue putting their best foot forward.

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