FARMERS WHO SELL DIRECTLY TO CUSTOMERS AT FARMERS’ MARKETS AND THROUGH CSAS ARE COMING UP WITH NOVEL SOLUTIONS AT BREAKNECK SPEED TO KEEP THEIR CUSTOMERS FED AND THEIR OPERATIONS VIABLE.
By : Leah Douglas
For Jody Osmund, who runs Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm with his partner, Beth, in Ottawa, Illinois, the shuttering of public spaces to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus presents a significant challenge. He typically distributes his farm shares at brewery taprooms around the Chicago area, which allows him to share a pint with customers while supporting local businesses. So how should he proceed when many bars and restaurants are closed, and heath guidelines demand that people keep their distance?
Enter the pool noodle.
Osmund used the noodle to mark out a safe distance between him and the members of his community-supported agriculture program at this week’s 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 described via email. “It was a little awkward, but the pool noodle was disarming and brought a little levity.”
As the spread of the coronavirus causes many cities to curtail public gatherings, farmers who sell directly to customers at farmers’ markets and through CSAs are coming up with novel solutions at breakneck speed to keep their customers fed and their operations viable.
Some food distribution groups are even rethinking their entire delivery model, trying to ensure that farmers still have a market and customers still have access to fresh food.
Their adaptations include, of course, improving sanitary practices by frequently washing hands and offering sanitizer to customers. Farmers at markets are wearing gloves, handling produce themselves rather than having shoppers select items, and eliminating sampling. Those who distribute CSA shares are pre-bagging and bringing them to customers’ cars or operating in the parking lots of the closed business or churches where they would otherwise distribute.
Some organizations are piloting home delivery for the first time, as many shoppers are self-isolating or quarantined at home. Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Market Mobile program typically delivers wholesale orders of local produce and other farm goods to restaurants and universities across the state. But this week, the group rolled out a new system that allowed individual households to place orders online and have food dropped off right at their door. Continue reading