Farmers and food groups innovate to keep operations viable as coronavirus spreads
Published: April 1, 2020
Category: The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter
With the spread of the coronavirus and the requirement for social distancing, farmers who sell directly to customers at farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture programs (CSAs) have to come up with novel solutions to keep their businesses going.
For example, Jody Osmund, owner of Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm in Ottawa, Illinois uses a foam pool “noodle” to mark out a safe distance between him and his CSA members at his distribution site.
“I’d take their name and get their CSA share. Then [I] would set it down for them and back away before they would pick it up,” he said in an email. “It was a little awkward, but the pool noodle was disarming and brought a little levity.”
Farmers are also adopting sanitary practices called for to minimize coronavirus exposure such as frequently washing hands, offering sanitizer to customers, wearing gloves, and handling produce themselves instead of having shoppers select items.
Some organizations are offering home delivery of produce for the first time. Farm Fresh, Rhode Island’s Market Mobile program, usually delivers produce and other farm goods to restaurants and universities. But the group recently introduced a system that allows people social distanced at home to place orders online and have food delivered to their door.
The Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture in Alexandria, Virginia has also adopted a system that enables customers to place orders in advance. The center has a mobile farmers’ market that serves communities around Washington, DC that have less access to local and fresh food. The group takes customers’ orders and bags them up for them.
Many local and regional food producers and markets recently advocated that their services should be considered “essential” and be allowed to continue operating. Several cities and counties including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Clara County, and San Mateo County, along with the states of Minnesota, Virginia, and Pennsylvania recently declared that farmers’ markets are essential businesses and are allowed to operate.
In addition, farm groups have called on policy makers to include local and regional farmers in the federal emergency aid package for coronavirus relief that will focus on small businesses.
Source: Leah Douglas, Food & Environment Reporting Network
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