Attn: FARMERS! Pandemic and distribution?
My apologies in advance for bringing up this subject that may affect us all. How might the Corona virus affect our distribution this year?
Farmers are an optimistic lot, else we would never plant a seed. We also tend to peek into the future to plan our work load around things that must be done. That said, the corona virus may change how we do business this year and I am trying to get my mind around it.
My guess is that not a lot of us are in farming for the money but instead feel a responsibility to provide our customers with HEALTH. If this virus catches hold here in the US and is anything like what is happening in China, distribution chains might be shut down to prevent the spread of this disease, we might become even more important to our local customers than we are now.
So let’s call it, this is a nasty virus that has closed a country that is the manufacturer to the world. How do I factor this virus into my plans for the season? How can I be the most help to my customers during the coming crisis?
My first thought is to protect myself from getting sick, then I may be of help to others. About 98 percent of our distribution is through the Farmers Market that we run, this may not be a viable venue in a pandemic. Do I plan for a new CSA this year? How do I insure my produce is virus safe and I am not inadvertently spreading it?. Social distancing is something that will help me from getting sick, do I go with a U pick or will this spread virus to others though my customers? Do we take custom orders and use returnable totes that can be sanitized? Do we take cash and if not how do we get paid?
This thing is unwinding slowly, the CDC and the WHO expect it to take hold, in the calm before the storm how can we prepare and envision a new distribution system in a pandemic? Heavy stuff, farmers are a bright lot, I look forward to your thoughts.
I would tend to avoid the farmers market, once this takes hold. Im sure the customers would as well.
If you have regular customers, you can setup regular CC billing using something like cartfunnel ( Subscription payemnts and one time payments) and a shopify website.
I do mostly home delivery and would leave the product on the customers porch.
Then I would plan on decontaminating any return packaging. Or maybe use the packaging only once.
beef and lamb. Less than 20% are finished on farm and enter the custom slaughter market. The beef prices have slipped this week, just a bit at our local sale barn. I am to sell 19, 5-6.5 weight calves in two weeks. I have my fingers crossed. The lambs are presold so not to worry?
There is a perfect storm going on in Asia. Huge loss of pork is creating a protein shortage and cattle were expected to rise on that shortage. Now I am not so sure.
robie, husband, father, farmer, optometrist
I would continue the farmer’s market but request that customers not handle the merchandise. You alone handle it with your gloved hands.
You pick should work with gloved hands, possibly masks and no young kids allowed to pick.
The other piece of farmers markets is the payment side. Cash would be handled by the customer and I might give it to another customer as change. I also use my cell phone as a credit card reader with square and they need to sign with their finger.
As I plan my year I wonder about things like, grain supply for my pigs and turkeys, and delivery of that grain. And also customer demand or the ability to pay for what they’ve reserved and I’ve raised for them if the economy heads south and they’re struggling financially.
In NNY we have a Food Hub, ours is called the North Star Food Hub. A list is produced once a week usually on Thursday or Friday morning and emailed out to customers with the various products, qty and prices offered by our local member farms. You put your order in to the food hub, via email by Monday noon. The food hub picks up from the farms and delivers to the purchasers on Thursday, this is done for a modest mark up.
It saves everyone time and money. And I love it!
I’ve been wondering how soon I need to stop buying fresh food. If it’s grown in a hot area or shipped/handled by infected workers, can I know it’s safe? Do I need to wipe off the outside of every food package in my mudroom before I bring it into the kitchen?
Do I need to local source everything as long as there isn’t an outbreak locally? Yes, at some point I might need to go to stored foods, but I really hate to give up the health benefits of fresh food until risk of contamination is clear.
I think for both local produce consumers and growers, it’s important to think through distribution. Once there are local cases, farmers’ markets are out and so are you-pick operations, so CSA’s become more important. Now the question is how to keep the food uncontaminated during picking and distribution and to keep farm workers uncontaminated.
Many of us who don’t do commercial farming are knowledgeable as both consumers and gardeners. We’d love to connect with our local food sources that understand these issues.
any suggestions? There is a regional groups section. Should we start to self-identify there? We don’t need exact locations for safety regions. just a general area and maybe an email contact.
Barbara, maybe this website will help you find local farmers, CSA’s, etc. Just find your state, city, or location. As an example, I selected Syracuse, NY.
If our region goes on lock down, the food hub will probably be on lock down too. Will there be fines to those that drive to our farm for food? Will I be fined if I deliver? What if the refineries go on lock down, how long will gas be available in our community? How long will my supply of masks and gloves to insure produce safety last? Can I wash my produce in .5 chlorine bleach and make it safe? I am feeling pretty good about having a diversified income as is recommended on this site, how long does that last in a pandemic?
This is an amazingly dynamic situation, hard to think through all the fluidity of the parts. Put your own mask on before you help those around you.