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Farm marketing during COVID

Posted by Leslie Price 
Farm marketing during COVID
May 15, 2020 01:59AM
I thought I would start this thread to see if any one else has any concerns about their on farm selling this year. I have to believe that things are going to get pretty bad by this fall as far as Covid. In my state, Washington, we got a handle on the epidemic early on but most of the focus has been on the urban counties. The governor is in the process of a phased opening of the state based on the states average case load. Problem is that case load is skewed by the populated urban counties being in good shape. Most of the other counties in Washington are agriculture based and have much less population. A lot of these counties, including mine, are not doing so well as far as infection rates.
I direct market all of my fruit. My income is about 20% farmers market, 80% U pick.
The farmers markets here are in a turmoil. The health dept has finally just started allowing some of the year round markets to resume but with huge restrictions. No sampling, No food vendors, Restricted numbers of customers allowed into the market, No lines at your booth, Customers cant touch the produce, Etc, Etc.
My farm stand (store) is considered an essential business so I will be allowed to operate provided that I can comply with the safety of my employees and customers. That is going to be really hard to do. Physical distancing, sanitizing. Considering the large volumes of people that normally show up on a weekend...….. of course maybe im worried about nothing...… no one will show up.

Leslie Price
Jones Creek Farms
Lyman, WA
zone 8a
skagitvalleyfruit.com
Re: Farm marketing during COVID
May 18, 2020 07:10AM
My thoughts hadn't turned to the marketing end of these viral times yet as we're still anticipating fruit potential here in northern New Hampshire. (Bloom time is a week away if not more.) Our orchard intensive class in June is looking very unlikely so that will be a first shot across the bow of my apple income. The stores in nearby towns that offer our fruit are not allowing customers in the door at the current time. Folks coming to the farm for harvest weekends seems doable but only time will tell. The odd thing here is local food production taking a hit but not the corporate supply chains. This may be the year I finally get round to offering fruit shares through regional CSAs.

Lost Nation Orchard
Zone 4b in New Hampshire
Re: Farm marketing during COVID
May 22, 2020 07:08PM
Well, conveniently, but unfortunately, we are currently dealing with the worst fireblight outbreak we have ever seen in our orchard, both blossom and shoot blight, so we can only wish that we were as worried as we should be about marketing our main season crop of apples. Our 'Early Harvest' fruit sets early and missed the blossom blight scourge, so we are, however, looking at possibly having to deal with the selling issue when that fruit ripens in another month.

Last year was our first year with enough good-quality dessert fruit to sell, so our marketing strategies are still fairly fluid. We fixed up the old tobacco packhouse on our property as a makeshift store and invited folks out for monthly open houses, but primarily frequented fall festivals and a very unique farmers market situated in a nearby state park. We are expecting the fall festivals to be problematic at best, and fairly likely to be cancelled all, but who can say at this point? That said, our problem has always been having enough good quality fruit survive the summer fruit rots in North Carolina to sell at all, and this year looks to be no exception.

Leslie, the last place I would want to be is a farmers market right now; I just can't deal with all the rules and regs. However, it can be done. I receive a weekly newsletter from an old acquaintance who sells at the Carrboro Farmers Market in NC, one of the top markets in the nation. They are open as usual, and have had to get ridiculously creative, and it doesn't sound like much fun to me, but they are making it work. It sounds like pre-ordering online has been especially helpful for vendors as they deal with all the restrictions you enumerated in your post. If your market is looking for a model to follow, you may want to check into the specifics of what Carrboro has been up to.

One marketing thing I have always aspired to, and may be an option for those of you with plenty of decent dessert quality fruit, is selling by mail, a la Harry & David, packed by the dozen. We are really not at all people-people, and as distasteful as I find the current order-everything-online craze, it always appealed to me as a way to sell directly . . . without direct contact. And somehow there's something special about receiving fruit by mail; I don't know -- it feels fancy, and is usually priced accordingly. Might be the perfect time to try it out. My mother was at the post office today, and the clerk was telling her how much trouble they're having keeping up with all the package demand right now, as people are ordering absolutely everything they can online and having it shipped to their homes. Of course, the bottom may eventually drop out by fall because of the overload, but if we're that far up the creek by then, maybe selling apples will be the least of all our problems.

Good luck to all!

Kordick Family Farm
Westfield, NC
Zone 7a
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