Less than two months ago Ben Barcovtch was in Kansas City, Mo., networking with fellow pork producers from across the country as a delegate at the National Pork Industry Forum. Today, the Pennsylvania pork industry member is fielding calls from some of those same producers, who are now asking for help.
"I have a lot of friends out in South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, that are directly affected by everything going on with the plant closures," Barcovtch says.
A service manager on the nursery and finishing team for Country View Family Farms in Middletown, Penn., and vice president of the Pennsylvania Pork Producers Council, Barcovtch says while the local Pennsylvania processing plant has been running at less than capacity, production has not shut down for the contract growers he works with on a daily basis.
"We did see some labor issues and we had to back off what our normal harvest capacity would be, but as far as having to euthanize animals, that's not really happening here in the Northeast," Barcovtch says.
He recognizes how fortunate they are and decided to start a GoFundMe page to help Midwest independent producers. His goal is to raise money to directly purchase hogs from farmers most impacted by plant closures and then to help cover the costs to send those hogs to local meat lockers and butcher shops to be processed. The meat would then be donated to families in need.
As funds start to come in, Barcovtch plans to reach out to the National Pork Board and state pork associations to locate independent producers who are in a critical timeframe for marketing hogs. Producers can also call him directly at 724-420-6525.
His initial target is to raise $50,000, and while Barcovtch recognizes much more is needed, he hopes the fundraiser will snowball into more support for his friends in the Midwest.
"My thoughts and prayers are with them and we know it's not easy what they're dealing with," Barcovtch says. "I'm one person and I don't know how far this is going to go, but I am trying to help any way I can."