CORYDON — For more than 40 years, Lynn Miller has been farming his family’s land in Corydon. But it wasn’t until their farmers market sales swelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic that what he does to feed families truly hit home.
“I was telling my wife the other day when we got done at the market [and] we had sold out of everything we had, ‘we just fed a lot of people today,’” he said.
Every Wednesday and Friday, Miller, a fourth-generation farmer at Miller’s Meats & Produce and consultant with Clark County Soil and Water Conservation District, starts early picking the tender sweet corn and other vegetables he’ll be taking to the market the next day — which could include cabbage, broccoli, kale, green beans, okra, zucchini, cucumbers, red and yellow tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and jalapeños.
On Thursdays and Saturdays, the farm has a booth at the Harrison County Farmers Market. On Saturdays, he also sets up shop at the Jeffersonville market next to the Big Four Bridge.
Seven acres of the land are devoted to the produce, flowers, honey and jelly he’ll sell there, which help draw in customers for the meat — Miller is the only beef and pork farmer at the Jeffersonville market and the only livestock farmer at the Harrison County market. Another 1,000 acres are farmed for livestock with corn, soybeans and hay sold commercially. His son, who the farm will eventually transition to, is heavily involved in the operations at the big farm.
Miller said he’s had bigger crowds at the local markets than ever this year, especially when he has a new shipment of meat to sell. Although the livestock on what he calls the big farm are sold to larger processors and not affected, the smaller processors who return the meat to farmers to be sold locally have a major backup, some quoting a year or more for new appointments.
“I’ve got dates set up all through the year but it’s not enough and they just keep getting bigger,” he said of the animals he is fattening for the market. “But for me since I can’t get many in, them being bigger actually kind of helps because I get more meat then.”
Miller recently got back just under 1,000 pounds of meat, which he said sold quickly. He also got lucky with an appointment within the past few weeks when someone canceled.
“[We’ve been] having such a hard time getting animals to the processor and so when we do get some processed, we advertise through Facebook, our website and word of mouth,” he said. “We let people know we’re going to be stocked up again [and] we just get inundated with people. It doesn’t take long and our inventory goes right back down again.”
When he has leftover produce at the market, Miller donates that to organizations who help serve individuals and families in need. He’s also made sure to take some meat to these groups this year since he knows they’ve been short due to the pandemic.
“It’s like my corn patches when I get picking, I can only sell so much and then people get filled up,” he said. “So I’ll go ahead and call community services and they’ll come pick it up.
“That makes you feel good, too. I don’t get a durn thing out of it but it makes you feel good.”
At the start of spring, Miller also said it was harder than usual to get produce seeds, with so many new home gardeners born out of the pandemic.
The family’s big farm, too, was affected earlier in the year by the pandemic, but more so in the trickle-down effects of big meat processors temporarily shutting down in spring because of the virus and cutting staff to keep them separated.
Miller said when that happened, some farmers might have been slower to buy new animals, which in turn affected the feed sales. Less driving also affected the price of corn.
“Corn is made into ethanol that they put into gasoline and people were driving less, so they didn’t need much ethanol,” he said. “So it’s affected in that way but in terms of getting supplies, really hasn’t affected [things.]”
Miller said it’s hard to know yet what the long-term effects of the pandemic could have on farming, because things still are changing.
“I think a couple years of this and it will eventually get more back to normal,” he said. “I really don’t care about seeing this ever again.”