By Sakina Steflik and Isabelle Zyhailo
Cars were backed up along 100 North in downtown Provo on Nov. 20, lining up into the Utah Valley Convention Center parking lot with people waiting for a Thanksgiving dinner ingredients.
Volunteers from across Utah loaded vehicles with turkeys from Moroni, potatoes from Ogden, butter from Cache Valley, and apples from southern Utah.
Volunteers served more than 400 families, giving them a lift during the holiday season. The Farm Bureau organized this “Miracle Project” as a part of its Farmers Feeding Utah campaign. This was the bureau’s fifth Miracle Project.
Most of the project’s funding comes from average people who visit their website, but the campaign is reaching national and even international audiences.
Clayton Beckstead, the northeast regional manager of the Utah Farm Bureau, said. “One of the princes from Saudi Arabia just mailed us a check. I am not kidding you.” He said an 84-year-old man from Louisiana, saw the event on social media and mailed a check, saying, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve seen so far.”
The program has reached many people through social media and officials from Utah cities are asking the Farm Bureau how they can also host the events, Beckstead said.
The Miracle Project also helps recognize the importance of farming in Utah and its broad impact on the community. “We are helping farmers and ranchers. We are feeding hungry people and we are building good will in the community,” Beckstead said. “The possibilities are endless of what we can do.”
Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee said the project is a personal matter. “My father was a farmer, so I grew up on a dairy farm. These (farmers) are the heroes in our community who are coming out to help and I love the fact that this is a spotlight on the great things that can happen in our state.”
This year, the impact of COVID-19 affected farmers and consumers alike. Near the beginning of the pandemic, some grocery store shelves were empty and there was a heightened concern food and supplies would be scarce. Supply chain disruptions were also a problem.
“The farmers were not able to sell their food. Ill happened at once and the president at Utah Farm Bureau, he had the idea,” volunteer and Levan resident Holly Hall said. “The greatest thing about this is that we are giving them not just canned food or treats. It’s actual food, the raw products from the farmers.”
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall was visiting the Utah Farm Bureau convention Friday in Provo. He had COVID-19 in July and was isolated for a little over two weeks.
“It was pretty difficult for me,” said Duvall, who is a farmer in Georgia. “I’ve had friends who’ve had it and it didn’t really affect them, like a kind of a bad flu or cold, but it hit me pretty hard.”
This pandemic affects people differently, and has been a struggle for many.
“The people you see coming through in here, that’s the real dark side of this pandemic,” Duvall said. “So it’s been difficult for people to struggle through not being able to work and having health issues.”
COVID-19 has affected families, farmers and communities, and Farmers Feeding Utah hopes to improve some of these hardships.
“The notion that we are being of service and providing folks that have needs, that is the highest calling as an elected official,” said Utah Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo.
Farmers Feeding Utah is bringing farmers and families together and awareness throughout the community, bringing in volunteers from many different backgrounds. Hall said most of the volunteers are farmers and ranchers.
The campaign also involved young people. This was Future Farmers of America State Sentinel Tyrell Jacobsen’s first time volunteering to help with the farmers. He enjoyed seeing his direct impact when organizing and handing out the potatoes.
“Both persons, the one giving and the one receiving, have happiness. It gives you a good feeling to help people.” he said.