Coronavirus spurs growth of small farms offering direct-to-consumer sales


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While some large farms are suffering from not being able to sell food to restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic, a few smaller direct-to-consumer farms are thriving in shelter-in-place conditions.

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In Idaho, several farmers provide fresh produce to their local community – and many of their customers have increased their spending to stock up on staples.

Kraay’s Market and Garden sells food to about 60 small farms, ranches and bakeries in Idaho’s Wood River Valley, and offers both online ordering and home delivery services to its customers.

So far, the company has tripled its customer base and quadrupled its product distribution, according to Sherry Kraay, owner of Kraay’s Market, who shared those details in an interview with the Idaho Mountain Express.

Before the pandemic, the market’s largest individual order was around $600, but now orders are reaching $1,900.

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“We deal with small family family farms that are not dependent on [contracts with large companies] for their livelihood,” Kraay explained. “They’re probably losing a bit of money by not selling to local restaurants and so on, but it’s not like they have thousands of dollars worth of big business contracts.”

“I think our farmers are doing well and are ready,” she added. “I know some who have decided to plant more than they would have if it hadn’t happened.”

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In Maryland, small farms are trying to catch up where the big East Coast poultry plants left off.

The Ritter Farm, which focuses on “patapsco valley pasture meats” in Howard County, has seen significant growth in recent weeks. The small, five-year-old organic farm gets about at least one new customer a week, according to co-owner Michael Ritter.

“…And most of them become loyal customers who come back every week, buying eggs or meat,” Ritter told WBAL-TV.

However, the sudden surge in demand during the virus created processing issues. A local USDA-certified butcher that Ritter Farm has contacted will not be available until November.

“It presents challenges for us small farms to actually get the product to people,” Ritter said.

To remedy this setback, Ritter Farm is preparing to expand its operations so that the farm can process the chickens on site. However, other pasture-raised, non-GMO meat products are available for purchase at this time.

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In the city of Pittsburgh, the 400-acre Allegheny County-based Triple B Farms recently implemented direct-to-consumer online ordering and socially distanced grocery pickup.

For a month now, customers have been able to order a variety of food staples, including fruits, fresh produce, dairy, meat, baked goods, honey, pantry items and gifts. . After payment, these customers picked up their curbside selections at a designated time.

“I don’t foresee us being able to take it all [new service] back,” Suzanne Beinlich, co-owner of Triple B Farms, said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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Currently, the farm is looking at ways to ship produce to customers as the coronavirus pandemic continues. In fact, Beinlich says their customer base has been asking for a door-to-door shipping option for at least a decade. However, she noted, “We are taking baby steps. »

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