How Farmers Are Adapting to the Coronavirus Pandemic
This year’s coronavirus pandemic put a remarkable strain on the agriculture industry, prompting farmers across the country to rapidly adapt their businesses to meet the needs of consumers. Austin Flamm, manager of Flamm Orchards, and Michael Turley, owner and operator of Rolling Lawns Farm, shared their experiences navigating these circumstances in May 2020.
Rolling Lawns Farm
If there has been a silver lining to the challenges our farm has faced during the coronavirus pandemic, it is seeing how committed our customers have been to buying our products.
At our fourth-generation dairy farm, we sell milk from our registered Holsteins to restaurants, coffee shops and other food service businesses in and around St. Louis. The food scene there is vibrant and chefs at the restaurants we sell to have been very committed to maintaining relationships with local farmers throughout the pandemic.
When we saw COVID-19 restrictions increase, some of our restaurant customers pivoted to curbside services. The really savvy businesses have also started offering meal prep kits that include meat, milk, eggs and other local farm ingredients. The most urban consumers – the ones farthest removed from the farm – are driving this demand because they want to use the same ingredients used by their favorite restaurants. I am honored that our products have been included in these kits and excited to have the opportunity to connect with our customers in this new way.
Another way we have tried to expand our business over the last couple of months has been to partner with other farms, like Eckert’s, to sell our products at farm retail stores.
At our own on-farm store, customers have been traveling from as far as St. Louis and Effingham to stock up on our products. While visiting, we ask customers to take extra precautions like wearing masks and practicing social distancing to ensure their safety.
The coronavirus situation has given us the opportunity to get more involved with our customers. At the end of the day, my hope is that we have provided quality experiences for them that they are glad to have found during this difficult time.
– Michael Turley, Bond County
This has been a very different year for Flamm Orchards. As our strawberries started ripening in the fields and we geared up to open our on-farm store in April, I did not know how many customers to expect. But I did know we needed to take extra measures to keep everyone working on or visiting the farm safe.
To start, we had our workers wear gloves and masks to pick the strawberry crop. In our store and Fruit and Cream Shop, where we sell products like jams and strawberry shortcake, we added plexiglass barriers, six-foot social distancing markers and sanitizer stations. While the coronavirus is not something we are scared of, we wanted to take precautions to stay ahead of the situation and protect our workers and the public.
To my surprise, when we opened our doors this season, and every day since, we have had a line of customers waiting outside our store to get fresh strawberries and other products. The store has been so busy that we have sold out of produce each day. Thankfully, these retail sales have been so fruitful that loss from our largest wholesale strawberry customer has not hurt our business too badly.
Although our farm may look a little different this year, it has proven to be our largest retail season for berries to date. I am proud of our team for pulling together and making this the safest and best experience possible for our customers.
– Austin Flamm, Union County
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Looking to buy fresh produce, meat, cheese and more directly from Illinois farmers? Check out MarketMaker, an online forum where you can find agriculture products being sold by farmers in your area. This free service is made possible by Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Specialty Growers Association, Illinois Farmers Market Association, Food MarketMaker and Buy Fresh Buy Local Illinois. For more information, visit specialtygrowers.org/shoplocal.