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Breaks in the larger food chain bring opportunities and challenges for Northern Neck meat producers

by Jackie Nunnery

Rachel, Brian and Nathaniel Barnes all chip in to take care of the heritage pigs on the family farm, Fern Hollow Farm.

In the wake of closings related to COVID-19, the news for large-scale food producers has been bleak.

Without markets for livestock producers to sell their animals, without employees to process the food, “the food supply chain is breaking,” said John Tyson, chairman of the board of Tyson Foods, in a letter published as an advertisement in the New York Times April 26. It echoes the statement of Smithfield Foods chief executive officer Kenneth Sullivan, who on April 12 said that closures of meat processing facilities are “pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.”

As area grocery stores have faced dwindling meat supplies due to the disruptions in the larger food chain, more customers are now seeking out and supporting smaller farms in the Northern Neck. But like any other supply chain, quick reactions are not always possible.

“We’ve seen a big jump in people wanting our pork,” said Brian Barnes of Fern Hollow Farms in Lancaster. Barnes raises sheep and heritage breed pigs, a mixture…

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