You, COVID19, and your farm business

The thriving farmers response to the current crisis

Over the last several weeks we have been monitoring the virus’s impact on our farmers, our communities, and our economy.  

I want to first lay out what's happening, share some truths you need to internalize, and talk about your response and how make your business even stronger, then give you resources to weather the storm.

What’s really happening out there?

First, let's talk about sales, which is the lifeblood of any farm business. 

We are seeing farmers lose some accounts, especially in restaurants and the hospitality industry because of conferences, events and weddings getting canceled. Those contracts are being pulled back. 

On the flip side of that, we're seeing record sales with home delivery, CSA, farm stands, and grocery store sales. Some farmers are seeing 3, even 4X in sales through these channels. You may need to pivot your business model online, and we’ll share some resources about that at the end of this post. 

Second, there's a lot of mass hysteria out there. I've been talking to my father who's a physician, and teaches at a university in Virginia. His take is this is definitely real, you need to wash your hands, don’t congregate in efforts to slow the spread, but there is no reason to freak out. Focus on your nutrition and health and reduce your stress.

Farmer's markets in some cases are still open, and some are being closed. The criteria is based on how they are classifying those as a grocery store and actually saying they're better than a grocery store cause they're out in the open air, especially as you're getting vitamin D as you are shopping. 

Some Truths you need to internalize

People still need to eat the foods you’re growing as a healthy immune system is one of the best ways to combat these viruses. A robust immune is essential to help cases stay mild instead of a much more serious illness. 

With the understanding that food is our medicine, people need to be eating more local healthy food to be able to fight this. 

Most importantly, this will end. The news in China is saying that it has peaked and people are back to work, they have closed the last dedicated hospital. The ports have reopened. 

Our hope is that this has kind of blown over and is on the decline before summer farmer's markets open up in May or early June since that is several months away.


How to leverage this to keep your business strong and help your community

NOTE: we shouldn’t be “preying” on the fear and challenges that so many are experiencing… but we need to feed our communities and use this to remind people of our local, healthy, safe food system. 

Now more than ever they need us. 

First, review your sanitation and farm preparedness plan

  • Step up your sanitation protocols. Make sure you're using the right kind of cleaners to clean your surfaces. 
  • ​When your team is bagging products, have them wearing masks. Even if they aren't sick, I would still wear a mask because we do know that the incubation period of this can be on the long side.
  • ​If you are going to do farmer's markets, stop with the open sales of greens. Make sure everything's pre-bagged. This is not the time to say, “Oh, I don't want to use plastic.” Use more plastic. Do it to make sure people are staying safe. I love the idea from my friends at Six River Farm who have mixed packs that people can grab and go. 
  • ​Have a dedicated person that's wearing gloves handling cash, and then the other people just handling the produce. Make sure everyone is following the sanitation protocols. Make sure that people have the ability to socially distancing as they shop.
  • ​Don't sample- this is a virus that is airborne as well as can be transmitted by hands. So if someone coughs that could spread on things.
  • ​And then if you are sick, do stay home. Don't risk it even if you think it's just a cold. Stay home. It's not worth the risk. Even a cold is damaging to those immuno compromised individuals. 
  • ​Think about is your supply chain. Do you have wear parts, do you have the feed and seed and supplies that you need to get started this year. Do you have packaging supplies? A lot of the plastics come from China which is now back up producing, but the shipping backlog will be felt for a few months.
  • ​Have a contingency plan if you or your employees get sick. Do you have other farmers that you know that could fill in for you to get those spring plantings in? If you are sick and can’t be near produce who is going to harvest, wash, pack and deliver that product?

Second, Communicate with your customers

You need to reassure your customers that you are aware of the issue and doing everything that you can to reduce the contamination and to still get them healthy food. And again, remind them healthy food is a key for staying well.

Concepts you want to communicate:

>>That your farm is taking this seriously for their health and the steps you are taking

>>That you are still there to provide their food in time of need

>>What changes you are making in delivery or sales to help them through this.


How some farms are talking to their customers about this...

Ruby at Valhalla Organics, a pickle, preserve, and honey farm

Heron Pond Farm in New Hampshire

Six River Farm and their Pop Up Markets

Pleasant Valley had a market canceled on Thursday...

First they used a airtable form to set up a quick ordering system for that weekend

As that was a success, they then switched to Local Line software to continue taking orders

Ray Tyler at Rose Creek Farms set up their store several years ago and it paid off- their online sales 3X'd in the last week!

Check out one of the facebook ads that Ray is running for his store

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Other Farms that shared their thoughts

A Farmer's Market's Response on the west coast

Have a favorite response? drop the link below...

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Third, take stock of where your business is

We can’t ignore that the stock market has dropped almost (at this time) 10,000 points do to this as well as oil prices. Things are going to be different for a bit. It may be time to put together a couple different budget scenarios for your business. We are. 


Make sure you're holding onto your cash reserves at the moment, and then be ready for the whiplash. I absolutely believe that this is only going to strengthen the local food system because people are going to be more than ever scared of industrial food system that's bringing product in from overseas or from thousands of miles away across the country.

Fourth, this is a huge opportunity for local food to shine

For years, I have been talking about farmers offering online purchases and home delivery. We are seeing a massive spike in that in the last ten days and it's really working out well. 

People have been preconditioned with Amazon, Door Dash and those other home delivery services. So they're more than willing to pay for the added cost of this for your farm. And, according to numbers farmers are sharing with me, the labor involved (even with delivery) can be less than running a farmers market stand.

And, if you don’t want to do delivery yourself, you can absolutely outsource that to all the restaurant workers who are out of business right now. There is actually great software that helps you with routing such as Roadwarrior.

We are also seeing a huge spike in interest in gardening. Those gardens will need transplants and supplies. Some of our members are seeing their stores selling literally thousands of dollars of transplants in the last 2-3 days.


The Direct Market Farmer's Guide to COVID-19

Free Download!!

We recommend our friends at Local Line for purpose built, farmer focused software

Looking for a simple low-tech, but more work option?


While these options lack the inventory mangement, delivery route options, and quickbooks integrations, they can be good to get started.

Want to learn how to use shopify to sell your products?  

Shopify is a great platform, but takes a bunch of different plugins and tweaks to make it perform best...

Ray and Ashley Tyler are putting together a thorough tutorial on using Shopify to sell online- Sign up below

Growing Farmers Mini-Course on Selling online!

We've interviewed several different farmers on how they have moved their sales online and the impact it has made on their business- We also include a 10 minute tutorial on just how easy it is to set up Local Line!

Alderspring Farm on how to sell and ship your frozen product!

If you follow all five days of this course, by the end you'll have a fully functional online store, the shipping materials you need to start small, and a UPS shipping system with discounted rates. On Day 5, you'll be ready to start taking orders. We'll lead you step-by-step through the process. And yes, it is possible in 5 days! .

Want to learn how to ship your products?  

Our friends at Grazecart.com are offering their normally $1500 course for FREE.

NOTE: I am not a medical expert and not trying to give any sort of medical advice. Our goal is just to help you be able to weather this storm in your business and grow and feed more people. Best of luck out there. Anything we can do to support you let us know. Some of the products mentioned here may have affiliate relationships with GrowingFarmers.com.
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