Pandemic produces revolutionary year for market farms
The state Agriculture Department’s sudden turnaround to allow farmers markets to open this week is welcome news for the Cape Region’s farmers and for consumers.
The markets have grown into a major retail outlet for farmers; they also provide a venue where consumers come face to face with the farmers and get to know them.
One of the rare bright spots of the pandemic may be the growing interest of consumers in knowing where their food comes from and in deepening the bonds with the people who produce their food. Local farmers say business is booming.
Rob Dick, co-owner of Totem Farms in Milton, says even without the farmers markets, since the pandemic, his retail sales suddenly increased “1,000 percent if that’s possible.” So many people were stopping at the farm, Dick had to scale back hours at a new retail building so he could find time to plant, let alone rest.
Hattie Allen of Lewes says it used to take three to four days for online customers to order the produce she offers weekly. These days, she says, within a few hours, she has sold out.
It’s the same at Adkins farm in Dagsboro, where sales are up 40 percent over this time last year.
Josh Nash, who calls himself a first-generation farmer, said once the pandemic hit, within four days he sold more shares in the community-supported agriculture, or CSA, he offers than he had sold in two months.
“I think this is going to be a revolutionary year for market farms,” he said. “People are beginning to understand food supply chains.”
Our local farms produce a wealth of foods we all need, with the freshness and flavor so many of us want. Buying directly from farmers supports this essential resource and the people who produce it, and, in turn, keeps farmland in production, preserving our rural landscapes.
Most of all, when we buy local produce, we are deepening our bonds of community at a time when the pandemic is fraying nearly every bond we have.