The 50th anniversary of the Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Farmer Appreciation looked a little different this year.

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Pandemic or no pandemic, there’s no question that farmers are essential to keeping the world going.

But in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, that farmers have continued to provide and persevere despite the additional challenges they’ve faced has been particularly notable.

“Farmers are essential and have been working non-stop,” said Michelle Farrow, workforce development coordinator for the Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.

Because farmers are standing strong, others are able to “keep moving forward,” Farrow said.

Considering that, the marking of the 50th year of the chamber’s Farmer Appreciation Dinner could perhaps not be any more timely.

“It is incredible to know that the chamber has been doing this for this many years,” Farrow said.

The dinner is usually a community event that provides an opportunity to sit down and enjoy a shared meal together, Farrow said, but even after postponing the event, typically held during June Dairy Month, for two months, the traditional celebration wasn’t able to proceed as initially hoped for.

That wasn’t going to stop the chamber from providing farmers with a thank-you meal this year, though.

In announcing the event, the Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce wrote, “In the face of great uncertainty, the (chamber) wants to express our gratitude to those keeping food on the table.”

On Aug. 19, they fulfilled that promise.

Held at the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds, the chamber opted to show their appreciation in a style that has become more and more popular for events as the pandemic has worn on: the drive-thru meal.

Among those to show up to the modified event to show their support was 73rd Alice in Dairyland Julia Nunes, who returned to her hometown to join in on the experience.

“Coming from Chippewa Falls and growing up on a dairy farm, I am so happy this event is still taking place. This truly represents the support and pride that my town has for agriculture,” Nunes said.

Just as agriculture’s contributions to the local area and state are far-reaching, so was the community support that pulled together to make the event recognizing those contributions possible.

The chamber planned to serve 2,000 meals to the community at the event, with 1,000 of those dinners donated to farmers free-of-charge by local businesses, Farrow said.

The committee who worked on the event was “fantastic,” Farrow said, and 50 volunteers were set to help the event flow smoothly, assisting with everything from food packaging to traffic flow, Farrow said.

“I am proud to be a part of farmer appreciation events and to recognize those who grow and produce our food,” Nunes said. “This year has been difficult for many, and I am so glad the Chippewa Falls Chamber of Commerce is working with local businesses to show their support for farmers in their community.”

While the Chippewa Falls dinner is marking a milestone this year, farmer appreciation events can be found across the state throughout the year.

Showing appreciation for the farming community can extend well beyond those events, too, though.

“Even though this year is different,” Nunes said, “I think it is so important to support your local community by looking for Wisconsin products in stores, attending farmers markets or working directly with farmers if that’s an option.

“Buying Wisconsin products supports farmers and helps to strengthen our communities.”