Local farms convert to online ordering, delivery options to meet health safety guidelines
The Recorder, May 16, 2020. By ZACK DeLUCA, Staff Writer
While the current public health emergency persists, farmers across Franklin County are adapting their business models for online orders, curbside pickup and home delivery to maintain food access while meeting health safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In response to COVID-19, Diemand Farm in Miller Falls is offering a temporary curbside pickup and delivery service. Diemand Farm is also still offering in-person shopping at its store in Wendell, which is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Co-owner and kitchen Manager Anne Diemand Bucci said that curbside and delivery sales have been popular, and business, in general, has picked up.
“We’re here, we’re doing our best,” Diemand Bucci said. “We feel extremely lucky and blessed to be able to stay open and provide people with good comfort food during this very strange time. … We have both regular customers and new folks who a r e n’t wanting to go into the big supermarkets.”
Diemand Bucci said curbside pickup is primarily for elderly or atrisk customers who need to seriously protect their health. It is preferred customers go online to order and pay for the food before arrival, but they are also taking orders over the phone. Orders can be placed at thediemandfar m.com/curbsidedeliver y.
Because staffing for delivery is small, delivery is open to those under quarantine who cannot use the curbside pickup service. There will be a minimum purchase amount of $50 and a service fee of $15 per order for delivery orders to cover the farm’s additional staffing costs and vehicle expenses. A surcharge of $5 will be added to any orders under $50.
Diemand Bucci has noticed a “huge” demand for products like eggs and meats, including chicken, turkey and beef. The farm will harvest a round of turkeys at the end of May, but right now they are temporarily out of ground beef and beef patties, with other products running low. In March, Diemand Farm pro- cessed meat products that normally
would have lasted through April, but they sold out within 10 days of the announcement that schools were going to close for the year. They processed new chicken meat on May 3.
“We sold out of whole birds again and I just sold the last boneless breast today,” Diemand Bucci said Wednesday, May 13. “I’ve never seen it like this.”
While she said increased business is “wonderful,” Diemand Bucci also expressed concern about having enough product to get through the whole year. They normally stop processing meat at the end of October and store products in a freezer to match sales through the winter.
During a recent conference call with Sen. Jo Comerford, farmers and local farming advocates discussed what farms can do to help end hunger in the Pioneer Valley. While on the call, Just Roots Inc. Executive Director Jessica O’Neill said the Greenfield nonprofit is doing its best to make sure food reaches everyone who needs it in Franklin County. Currently, Just Roots is offering both curbside pickup and delivery options.
The organization offers a subsidized CSA share program, a community garden and accepts SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, and HIP (the Healthy Incentives Program). In the last two months they have seen a 30 to 40 percent increase in participation, enrolling an additional 100 members in the SNAP, HIP farm share program. Just Roots is also offering a COVID-eligible subsidized program for people who are newly impacted by the pandemic.
“We’ve added those people to the others who are incomeeligible,” O’Neill said on the conference call. “We have 400 families now, which is about 1,200 people, who will receive subsidized farm shares for 20 weeks this year. That’s 120,000 meals from June to October.”
Meeting the demand
Elsewhere in the region, The Farm School in A t h o l i s n’t currently conducting on-farm pickup, but it is offering no-contact delivery for local meat sales to residents in Athol, Erving, Orange, Phillipston, Petersham, Royalston, Warwick and Wendell. Orders placed by Sunday at midnight will be processed and delivered the following Wednesday. Customers can check the Farm School’s inventor y and submit an Order Form.
On delivery day, the farm will text or call customers when the order is dropped off. According to its website, the Farm School will not make person-to-person handovers for health safety reasons, and it “cannot be responsible for the food once it is left at your door.” In order to keep food at safe temperatures, customers should be ready to bring the order inside once they have received confirmation of the delivery.
In Orange, the Quabbin Harvest Co-op is taking orders for curbside pickup via phone, 978-544-6784 and email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Curbside orders can be picked up between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day. Inperson shopping is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
In Deerfield, Atlas Farm has opened an online store to continue providing for customers while the store is closed to in-person shopping. Orders must be placed by 2 p.m. each day. Pickup hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Customers will get an order confirmation email when their order is received, and a second email when the order is ready for pickup.
Red Fire Farm in Montague is currently operating as a “call-in, pick and pack” farm store only. They are serving grocery customers through the greenhouse and patio area. Grocery orders can be placed by calling 413-367-3071 or emailing email@example.com.
Rainbow Harvest Farm in Conway also continues to provide access to local, organic plants and produce through online sales. Information can be accesssed on the farm’s website, rainbowharvestfar m. com/pages/ordering-information. Orders can be placed for pickup at the farm. They are also starting to accept orders for pickup at the Greenfield Farmers’ Market starting Saturday, May 16. Orders must be placed by noon on Wednesday to be ready for pickup on Saturdays.
More information on the services local farms are offering can be found at WMAFARMS.INFO. The website is being updated regularly with information on access to farm-fresh food and ways to support local agriculture during COVID19. Berkshire County residents can also check out Berkshire Grown’s list of ways to Support Local Farms from a Distance. The Community Involved in Supporting Agriculture (CISA) is capturing the new systems that are being put in place by farms, restaurants and other businesses in the Pioneer Valley to continue serving customers while responding to new recommendations and concerns related to the spread of coronavirus.
Across the state
Mass.gov is updating the MassGrown map every day. It continues to be a statewide source to find the closest farms, farmers’ markets, CSA farms, and more. The map includes information on farms that offer delivery and curbside pick-up. It is important to check farm websites or contact them directly to see if their hours have changed.
The Mass Farmers Markets Association has a comprehensive list of delivery services for accessing local food across the state. Some delivery services accept SNAP benefits. Mass.gov also has a new map link to farms that deliver or offer mail order, from fruits and vegetables, to maple syrup, honey, plants, flowers and more.
Using the map, consumers can find a CSA farm nearby. Many farms are now coordinating safe curbside pick up schedules for customers. Additionally, the Massachusetts Cheese Guild has produced a new link of cheese producers who ship cheese directly to consumers or can pre-pack orders for pickup or delivery with safe distancing.
The Massachusetts Specialty Food Association is a statewide non-profit organization that serves as a resource to and advocate for the Massachusetts specialty foods industry. It is offering online food ordering during, and after, the current pandemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds for general food safety. It may be possible that a person can get COVID19 by touching a surface or object, like a packaging container, that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging. … Shoppers may consider disinfecting food packaging after bringing it home from the store.’ Zack DeLuca can be reached at z d e l u c a @recorder.c o m or 413-930-4579.