MAXWELL, Iowa — During the pandemic, Alden and Adalynn Vaugn’s classroom is among cows.
"We tried to homeschool," said Adalynn, age seven.
Once Adalynn's Kindergarten class was put on hold in the spring, she and her four-year-old brother spent a lot more time learning how to tend to their animals at Vaughn Farms Beef in Maxwell.
COVID-19 also means their parents, Mat and Jalane, also had to learn in new ways--managing to keep a brand new beef operation afloat during market disruption.
"COVID hit and the packing plants were at lower capacities," said Mat. "[The price of] beef was going up in the store, our inventory was piling up."
Last Fall, the Vaughns worked to move their show calf operation to include beef sales as well. Months later, the pandemic put a wrench in that plan.
"COVID hit and it changed a little bit, but I always like to look at everything in a positive way," said Jalane.
The positive? A thriving Facebook presence and membership in a group called "IA Farm 2 Table", which connects farmers with Iowa customers who wish to buy farm fresh products straight from the producer.
"It helped us," said Jalane. "We got more in touch with the customers and the local folks and people, and we realized the need and the want for people to purchase and to know where their products are coming from and to purchase locally."
Jenna Anthofer, of Breda, started the group in May. She said it gained about a thousand members in just a few days, and grew from there. As a former farm girl, she hopes to answer questions of many Iowans who may have never bought meat straight from a farm before.
"If you’re not familiar with buying a quarter beef, how much meat is that? What cuts are you going to get?" Anthofer said.
She even posts videos on how to butcher meat yourself.
"It's intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be," she said. "And that’s what I am trying to help people see."
Mat and Jalane said they’re able to show people where their food is coming from in a way they wouldn’t have been able to before.
"If we are educating the public, then we are heading in the right direction for agriculture," Jalane said.
As they teach their cows--and children--to hold their heads high during this bump in the road, they'll do the same.
"Hopefully when things go back to normal and beef prices go down people still remember us and still want to hear the story," said Mat. "Still want to come buy their premium beef from us, and we can be doing this for a lot of years."