How Consumers Can Help Local Producers Reduce the Risk of Spreading Avian Influenza
If there’s something that is universal about farmers, it is their ability to be resourceful and adaptive in the face of a challenge. As both suspected and confirmed cases of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in wild birds and domestic poultry flocks make the weekly news in BC, small-lot poultry operations across the province are again responding and adapting to new challenges facing their operations.
Being resourceful and adaptive won’t always fix a problem outright, yet knowing that our customers are wondering how they can support us pastured based farmers in the face of challenges is a salve in these stressful situations.
In speaking with our fellow farmers and on the heels of several conversations that we’ve had about visits to the farm over the past couple of weeks, here are some tips on how you can help support your local chicken, egg, and turkey farmer this year:
Don’t show up to their farm uninvited, call first:
The Small-Scale Meat Producers Association was successful in demonstrating to the Ministry the level of risk between small-lot poultry operations (typically under pasture or free-range management) and HPAI and was able to support an amendment to the original Order allowing for conditional exemptions to small scale poultry producers who adopt specific biosecurity measures. One of the measures we need to adopt is to avoid unnecessary visits to the farm so be sure to call ahead to make arrangements to meet with the farmer, and don’t show up unannounced.
If you are going to pick up at a farm, ask the farmer where they would like you to park and wear clean shoes. HPAI can unknowingly be transmitted via clothing, footwear, equipment, and vehicles. Once you’re at the farm, be sure to understand which areas are off-limits since many farmers will not be allowing non-farm employees into their coops or brooders this year.
Meet them at farmer’s markets, order online, or sign-up for subscription boxes:
As the weather improves, farmer’s markets begin to be more accessible. Use these hubs or weekly delivery dates as your pick-up method wherever possible.
Consider purchasing a different product from your farmer:
Did you know that many hatcheries are not filling orders for chicks for the small-lot farmer? This means that while your farmers have been planning to start the turkeys and broiler birds that you will be expecting to pick up later this season, their brooders might remain empty right now. The window is short for many farmers in BC to raise birds outside so every week that a brooder sits empty counts. When learning that roasting birds or turkeys might not be an option from your favourite farmer, consider another product they may have. Have you tried their pork? Their beef BBQ products? Their lamb? You may just find yourself a new favourite item.
Ask for the odd bits and make those whole birds go further:
Where there is inventory left to choose from, ask if your farmers have any odd bits (liver, necks, feet, etc.) to make soup, pate, broth. Your farmer, taste buds, and wallet will all thank you.
Dealing with circumstances outside of your control is exhausting and many of your farmers are facing mental fatigue after a global pandemic, rising feed and fuel costs, and back to back seasons of wildfires, drought, and flooding. Try to extend a delayed response, tired eyes, occasional slip-ups, or lack of agri-tourism opportunities this year with a little bit of extra grace.
Make the extra effort and support local:
Small-lot farmers are focused on feeding our communities. Even with our hyper-local focus, our operations directly feel the effects of global events and supply chain pinch points. Now, more than ever, make those efforts to support your local food producers.
Looking forward to seeing you at the market this season!