WORTHINGTON, Ohio — Now the produce is moving. But a month ago – the future was uncertain for these farmers.
“We had a van full of lettuce ready to go out Friday morning and found out we didn’t have a home for it. Promptly after that, they shut the schools down and then they shut anything for a large gathering, so the farm markets were closed down as well after that, so that actually in a matter of 18 hours, we lost every single one of our outlets for produce," said Wesley Vanscoy of Vanscoy Farms.
"We’re seeing a big drop off, probably what I brought down today it would be 25 percent or less of what I would normally sell on a Saturday, so I’m down, way down.” Eddie Lou Meimer, who runs Pleiades Maple said.
- Several growers had to toss produce when supply chain dried up due to state and federal orders
- Worthington Farmers Market found a way to allow producers to continue selling
- Farms combined efforts to offer online ordering and delivery
The Worthington Farmers Market — the largest and only year-round market in the central Ohio region — adjusted to a drive-thru model to continue operating.
Annina Parini, with the Old Worthington Partnership, helps run the 30-year-old market.
“We have a duty to our producers, we’ve got long, long-standing relationships with these producers and our mission as a market is to bring local food to the community, so we feel really deeply committed to that, so we had to figure out a way to make this work," Parini said.
Don Jones, of Kingdom Fish, uses the unique process of hydroponics to raise his plants and fish.
“We make the majority of our money from May to October through the farmers market season and so you really count on that and this year with the markets being shut down and being slowed down and with this new system being put in place with the markets, yeah, we, we were really concerned. We feel like now that things are gonna start rolling a little bit if we can get back to some semblance of normalcy in the markets by July, we can salvage the year," said Jones.
Growing produce isn’t like turning a tap on and off. Suppliers like Vanscoy Farms, who raise the majority of their produce for community-supported agriculture, must make their decisions to plant months in advance.
"The greenhouse is empty right at the moment. I say we backed up about 2 1/2 to 3 weeks of planting out here for the simple reason is we didn’t know what we were going to have in the way of a market. You can’t produce $20 to $25,000 worth of stuff to be sold a week and then not have a market to do that, it’s just not a sustainable model," said Bill Vanscoy.
"If it doesn’t look like there’s gonna be a market for it. There’s gonna be some farms that decide it’s going to be cheaper to not invest everything in and then you’re gonna lose less money not growing anything than invest in everything and having to either compost or throw it away or donate it to the food bank, which is a good thing to do, but on the same token, how can you as a farmer donate to a food bank for so long and not end up there yourself," added Wesley Vanscoy.
The new farmers market model allows a chance for producers to continue selling their goods. But, farmers like Jones still have to adjust their distribution
“We started to do more online sales, we thought that was something we could probably increase, and we have. We started doing more marketing in our local area trying to get people to come to the farm more to buy from us, just looking at the different ways that we can get our product out to the people," said Jones.
Oink Moo Cluck, a protein supplier, hasn’t missed a beat on sales thanks to their delivery system.
“People are gonna start to look more local, those home deliveries I think are very important. It’s no touch, so folks get on their website they place an order, we fill that order, we invoice them, we call them, it’s all pre-paid and we literally leave it on the front door," said co-owner Trisha Neczeporenko.
What these farmers rely on most is the support of their community, and in this time, that’s more important than ever.
“Any small farmer, any small producer, we are never going to be able to compete with the big grocery store chains on price, but I want people to remember that the products that they buy from any vendor at the farmers market are products that are raised with everybody’s heart put into them, it’s the best quality product that you could buy. It’s gonna be a little more a little more expensive because it costs us a lot to raise these products, but it’s going to be a great product," said Jones.
You can sign up to receive produce from any of these farms by following these links:
Vanscoy Farms: http://www.vanscoyfarms.com/
Kingdom Fish: https://www.kingdomfish.com/
Brown Bros Farm: https://brownbrosfarmsllc.grazecart.com/
Oink Moo Cluck: http://www.oinkmoocluckfarms.com/
These producers all sell their product at the Worthington Farmers Market every Saturday. Visit their website to learn more about ordering.