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Most Farmers in the Great Plains Don’t Grow Fruits and Vegetables. The Pandemic Is Changing That.

Amid massive tracts of wheat and corn destined for global markets, some farmers are planting cover crop mixes designed to be harvested by their communities.

On a recent Thursday, a group of farmers from Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska hosted a remote agriculture happy hour. There were a few dozen attendees, and nearly everyone was wearing a cowboy hat. In total, they farm more than 30,000 acres of cropland, most of it planted in soy, corn, or cotton destined for the global commodity market. The happy hour started with presentations about integrating livestock into cropping systems, but then things took a surprising turn: farmers began to discuss how they are feeding their families and communities.

“Normally, between me and the consumer there is a gigantic divide that is hard to cross, but now, people are hungry and I have to do something,” Tom Cannon, one of the farmers on the virtual happy hour, told me several days before the gathering. Cannon, who farms and ranches 10,000 acres near Blackwell, Oklahoma, was already feeling the squeeze from the trade wars with China when the pandemic hit.

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