by The Cornucopia Institute newsletter
April 13, 2020
I am a vegetable farmer who has been running my farm for 30 years. Every time I have planted a seed in the last 2 weeks, I’ve felt that it is an act of faith and hope. I’m also scared. Where will I sell my food? How will I get the work done? I can’t bring on any seasonal employees as I don’t know when or if I can pay them. That leaves lots of work for me to do alone and I’m not a spring chicken.
What about people who need access to good food but are suffering financially? How do I get food to those people while still keeping my lights on and gas in my truck?
I take lots of deep breaths when I feel the fear overwhelming me. I take things day by day. One step at a time, one seed at a time, I must Farm on.– Tricia Bross, pictured above at Luna Circle Farm, a certified organic farm in Rio, Wisconsin
Family-scale organic farmers are the people you want in a crisis. Responses to Cornucopia’s recent “We are Listening” message illustrate how these farmers are springing into action for their communities.
Farmers in Florida are turning to home delivery; farmers in Arizona bringing markets to the back of their pickup trucks. Story after story reveal their resilience and admirable determination in the face of huge setbacks.
- Andrea Hazzard of Hazzard Free Farm in Pecatonica, Illinois specializes in heirloom grains grown with organic practices. She expects the farm, which primarily serves local restaurants, to lose approximately 85% of its business. Hazzard is rethinking her business model, starting a food hub to connect farmers, producers, chefs, and bakers to consumers. Rather than scaling back, she’s planting more. “I believe there is a massive opportunity here to iterate the importance of local food.”
- John Dart of Manley Hot Springs Produce Co. and Dart-AM Farms, LLC in Manley Hot Springs, Alaska, reported he’s using quarantine time to figure out how to grow more food for Alaskans. “While I contemplate how to move forward, people need to understand that the supply chain doesn’t work well for many food insecure locations.” Several weeks ago, right before the world turned upside down, he traveled to Minnesota for farming supplies. His trip back home to North Pole included a stop in Watson Lake, Yukon in Canada, where health officials protecting their community kindly instructed him that he had “twenty-four hours to leave.”
- Karin Bellemare from Bear Roots Farm, a certified organic operation in Williamstown, Vermont, said her late nights have been spent creating and managing an online platform for The Roots Farm Market (pictured below), which she and her husband opened just a year ago. The Middlesex, Vermont store—now with curbside pickup—sells food from Bear Roots and from area growers and producers, serving as a vibrant alternative to larger stores stalled by cracks in the supply chain. “When we fall short on greens we have several other farmers who can fill the gap. That’s what creates and sustains a robust local food system.”
Farmers aren’t the only ones who have been in touch. Consumers illustrated the multiple ways they’re showing up for their local food system. Like Ami in Findlay, Ohio, who bought four bushels of apples from her CSA and is canning 120 pints of cinnamon applesauce to share with family, employees, and friends.
And they expressed their gratitude. Nancy, a regular at the winter farmers market in Bloomington, Indiana noted her appreciation for the ability to preorder organic food delivered directly to her trunk. “As senior citizens, my husband and I are deeply appreciative of our dedicated farmers’ and organizers’ efforts. They are our lifeline.”
These stories underscore the power of co-ops and farmers markets, more essential than ever, to ensure organic growers have continued access to the retail outlets and resources they need to stay in business. While the situation on the ground shifts daily, the call to action is unchanged: Keeping family-scale organic farmers in business—supporting them while they display the nimbleness that has always been necessary to keep their operations afloat—is essential.
“I buy from them every week, no matter what the weather is,” said Mary from Portland, Oregon. “I figure if they can be there, then so can I.”
Cornucopia’s commitment to deep listening in this moment has given farmers and good food advocates the opportunity to reflect, to connect to a larger conversation, and to acknowledge that, in any given moment, life feels intractable. Despite the long days, Bross from Luna Circle Farm elaborated on her thoughts in a follow-up conversation and remarked, “To be heard felt really good.”
The Cornucopia Institute engages in educational activities supporting the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying sustainable and organic agriculture. Through research and investigations on agricultural issues, The Cornucopia Institute provides needed information to consumers, family farmers, and the media.