Farmer Pat adjusts to online world – Helping children learn during COVID-19

Pat Robins

SALINA – For years, one of the highlights of the year for Salina Elementary School students was learning about animals and agriculture from a local farmer, Pat Robins. 

However, when the coronavirus crisis hit, his annual trip to the school — tractor and animals in tow — was canceled. 

So, he was asked if he would be willing to help preserve part of the experience for area children with short videos.

Pat, a Salina native, is a fourth-generation owner and operator of a local family business – Robins Family Farms with his wife, Terri Robins. The business was established in 1949 as a cattle operation by Robins’ grandfather and has expanded over the generations to include pork as well. 

“I have always enjoyed being a youth leader and an active member of the community,” Pat said. “Whether it’s flipping pancakes during the annual Fourth of July breakfast, leading a troop of scouts on an overnight camping trip, coaching wrestling or bringing my tractor and some animals to the elementary school during farm week each year.” 

With schools moving to online schooling, a teacher asked Pat if he would create a video she could share with the students. 

Pat and Terri made and shared the first video and were very surprised with the response. 

“Terri and I are having a lot of fun with the videos,” Pat said. “We are just trying to help the kids out during this unusual time. We are hoping to continue to put out new videos every couple weeks through the end of the school year teaching kids about animals and how to care for them.” 

The videos, shared online through social media, have drawn comments and messages from people as far away as Spain and Puerto Rico, according to Pat. 

Prior to COVID-19, Robins Family Farms supplied a lot of their products to restaurants. When restaurants began shutting down, they had to come up with an alternative distribution plan and opted to start marketing and selling directly to consumers via a website, word of mouth and social media. Products can now be ordered online and either picked up or delivered by appointment. 

“We have been thinking of incorporating an online sales channel for several years,” Pat said. “This unfortunate experience basically forced our hand. It has definitely been a learning experience and the community has been so supportive. I have also really enjoyed dealing with our customers directly.”

Robins Family Farms uses a local packing plant for its homegrown products, which keeps things local – it supports local jobs and invests in the local economy. 

Pat said they plan to continue with online sales once the coronavirus pandemic passes. They are focused on, and thinking of, the future.

“Be good to your animals, keep them healthy and appreciate what you have,” Pat said.

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