TAMPA, Fla. - Whether you’re a commodity farmer or a community one, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way farms are operating.
“It’s been crazy, we’ve just been getting calls and calls and calls to pre-order our produce,” said Chris Kenrick of Sweetwater Organic Community Farm.
Sweetwater is a non-profit that gets most of its business from schools – and educating children. With school out, Kenrick says their business model has changed.
“We’re full-blown into growing food and getting food to the market,” he said. “And helping other farmers that don’t have an outlet, maybe, because the markets have closed.”
That’s been the case for local tomato farmers. Restaurants have cut back orders, and shipments to other states have ceased, so they’ve taken to selling 25-pound boxes of tomatoes for $10.
Hillsborough County wants them to know, if the surplus is there, they’re here to help.
“We want to mitigate any substantial financial loss they might be experiencing because of the market disruptions,” said Monica Petrella, Hillsborough County’s food system program coordinator.
Producers can submit a simple online form with information that will be posted on the county’s website.
Sweetwater submitted their “Harvest Bags,” and they say the last three weeks have been wildly successful.
“We’ve sold out the last three weeks in a row, and we’re on track to do that again,” said Kenrick.
For $25, consumers can purchase a grab bag of about nine different fruits and vegetables harvested from their garden.
“We guarantee at least nine different items from the bag, like bunching onions, arugula, carrots, different types of kale, lettuce,” Kenrick said.
And they’re letting other farmers use their site as a pick-up location for pre-orders.
Petrella says it’s all about reminding the community that in these times, there are many options if you’re avoiding the grocery stores.
“There are some smaller, locally owned, and independently owned entities that could maybe afford a little bit of a consumer push,” Petrella said.
This directory is open to any and all farmers in Hillsborough County. To apply, visit https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfGBw4_mtdoiiwrcX21Ir5ubA9wNyCjfbFvO7mcpux-JTjKog/viewform
Here's where consumers can buy produce: https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/hillsborough/vendor-directory/