The impacts of COVID-19 are being felt throughout every corner or our state. With many businesses closing their doors, or laying off staff to get through this time, unemployment has skyrocketed. The Colorado Sun reports that unemployment jumped to 4.5 percent up from 2.5 percent in February. For those who have lost their jobs, many are struggling to put food on the table increasing pressure on local food banks to support those in need.

Food banks across the state are doing all they can to provide for their local communities. Sarah Smith, executive director of the Durango Food Bank was able to procure a semi-load of much needed food from Colorado Springs to Durango, but had no way to quickly distribute the food to food banks in the surrounding area.

Rural communities are used to making things work. Even during a pandemic, communities step up to support one another and do all they can to ensure that their neighbors and friends are taken care of. So, when Sarah called La Plata County Farm Bureau president Charly Minkler for help, of course Charly rallied the troops.

“The food bank was in need of volunteers willing to roll up their sleeves and roll in with a fleet of trucks to help deliver food and diapers and supplies,” said Charly. “That need matched perfectly to the Farm Bureau.”

Members from La Plata County Farm Bureau and San Juan Basin Farm Bureau pulled their trucks into Durango, ready to load up and distribute food to surrounding communities. Truck beds were filled to the hitch and members drove pallets of food and supplies to Cortez, Silverton, Mancos, and Pagosa. Distributing the food and supplies to these locations was nearly immediate—without the volunteers, these food banks would have had to wait days through normal distribution channels because there just isn’t the manpower or the equipment available to move that many goods.

For many who volunteered, this was the first time they’d seen each other in weeks due to social distancing.

“I wish you could know how much I’m smiling on the other side of this mask,” said Chrissy Wright, a rancher in Ignacio, a town on the southern border of La Plata county. She, her husband Nate, and her children Guy, Gary, and Natalie drove a very large and much-needed pallet of essentials all the way to Silverton, a town on the northern boarder of the county.

Farm Bureau members truly came out in force.

“It was a sight to be seen. Watching Farm Bureau members from across the area jump in without hesitation and with full hearts was touching,” said Phyllis Snyder, a CFB board member who represents the area. “This was a big effort. It took us all: from those businesses that donated the food and supply, to the food banks coordinating efforts, and finally to us…the distributors. We are so thankful we were able to get this food to those in need, and get it there quickly.”

Everyone pitched in. Local farmer Brad Milligin even brought his skid loader from Milligin Honey Farms to help with the loading. Mark Craig, the southwest agency manager for Colorado Farm Bureau Insurance also jumped in to help.

The large food donation came from Colorado Springs and local donations of diapers and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory candy were included in the supplies.

“We’re all happy to help,” said Charly. “Putting food on the table is what we do as farmers and ranchers. Plus, it’s part of the Farm Bureau’s founding mission.  I’m really glad we could be of service.”  Charly, President of the La Plata County Farm Bureau, is also an unaffiliated candidate running for the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners, District 3.

Special thanks to all of the members who donated their time, equipment and vehicles: Charly Minkler; Naomi Dobbs; Chrissy, Nate, Guy, Gary and Natalie Wright; Byron Porter; Phyllis Snyder; and Brad, Kaari, and Morgaine Milligin.