Offered by: Anneli Berube, Ag Innovation Specialist
In the midst of unprecedented times, the farmers of Historic Splendid Valley have forged on to continue to grow produce and flowers, raise goats and chickens, and so much more to maintain the food and agricultural products for the community.
“Spring on the farm is normally the most optimistic time for a farmer. It is the time when we finally get into the fields and have a fresh start, so to speak – a time when we plan to hopefully correct all of the mistakes we made last season, a time of hope for a better year than the previous one, kind of a fresh start,” explained Robert Sakata of Sakata Farms.
Despite moving forward, local producers are facing a myriad of challenges because of the COVID-19 crisis. The uncertainty of demand and market channels and the effects of social distancing on farm visitation have already forced some farms to make adjustments.
Berry Patch Farms is planting two new strawberry fields this year to help ensure the safety of employees and the public to pick certified-organic berries in the summer. Only in its first year of production, Minoru Farm has already pivoted from its model of selling at farmers markets to include Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm shares.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for knowing where your food comes from has increased, along with the public’s realization of the importance of supporting small local businesses. I got the message that I needed to step up and offer what I could,” said Jade Sato of Minoru Farm.
Sonflower Ranch was set to offer spring tours for preschoolers and first-graders, but it has been canceled because of the pandemic. In response, the farm is offering self-guided, no-contact tours for families looking for something to do close to home.
Farms have also had to make extensive changes to operation guidelines, ranging from increased food safety trainings to acquiring protective equipment to keep workers safe.
Changes in operations also extends to how farms are selling their products. Palizzi Farm is exploring a produce drive-up service and local delivery options. Sakata Farms mentioned potential opportunities to support food pantries and food banks as the season goes on. Red Daisy Farm is providing an opportunity to grow-your-own. In response to postponed weddings and other events that provide much of the demand for their flowers, Red Daisy is offering cut flower garden kits. Many local residents have already stepped up to ensure these local farms are supported.
“My experience over these past months is that we live in an amazing community that wants to support each other,” said Taylor Drew of Forever
West Farms. “I have witnessed so much kindness in the local food community and it inspires me.”