Staff Notes

A Pandemic’s Impact on Farms and Food

Volume One's latest project tackles critical regional topics

Nick Meyer, photos by Joel Pearish |

The longer this mess drags on, the more clearly we begin to understand the many insidious ways it’s impacting our culture and communities. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of tragic storylines to discover, many exposing how fragile many aspects of modern life have become.

As COVID-19 took hold last spring, one such storyline Volume One was interested in pursuing was how the pandemic would impact our region’s local food systems. How would farmers markets, small-scale farmers, and consumers deal with the rapidly changing landscape of demand (or lack thereof) at both home and restaurants, the impact of virus precautions and outbreaks at processors and distributors, changing consumer behavior around shopping, and more.

With these questions in mind, we applied to an emergency Covid-19 Local News Relief Program – a $10 million grant program funded by the Facebook Journalism Project – an effort to help pandemic-affected organizations like ours stay engaged with their communities at a difficult time. Luckily, we were among the 10% of those that applied to receive funding. This supported not only the work on these topics we’re sharing with you today, but also our ability to continue these efforts into the future.

So on page 42 of our latest print issue you’ll find our first results in a feature story titled Outbroken – A pandemic’s impact on Wisconsin farms and food. Plus, you’ll find a short film, additional photos, and more on our website at It’s all a story of how in many ways, our state’s small farmers – and our broader food systems – have struggled with support, scale, and sustainability. But as is often the case, we as consumers have a choice in where we want to see things go. Thank you for reading and watching. Stay safe.