İstanbul escort bayan sivas escort samsun escort bayan sakarya escort Muğla escort Mersin escort Escort malatya Escort konya Kocaeli Escort Kayseri Escort izmir escort bayan hatay bayan escort antep Escort bayan eskişehir escort bayan erzurum escort bayan elazığ escort diyarbakır escort escort bayan Çanakkale Bursa Escort bayan Balıkesir escort aydın Escort Antalya Escort ankara bayan escort Adana Escort bayan

Sunday, May 26, 2024

With many restaurants shuttered, farmers rethink business models, shift to ‘over-the-fence’ sales [Free read]

David Borkowski dumps grain into a feeder at his farm in Holly Ridge. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
David Borkowski dumps grain into a feeder at Changin’ Ways farm in Holly Ridge. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. — On a farm, you’d hardly notice there’s a global pandemic nearly freezing the local and national economy. Seedlings are sprouting, hens are laying more eggs daily, newborn livestock are taking their first steps.

But signs of the could-be recession and the disease that’s causing it are there — in the canceled restaurant orders, the closed-down farmer’s markets, the clients wary of in-person transactions.

Related: Faces of Wilmington as the city addresses a rising economic and health crisis [Free read]

“Life on the farm hasn’t changed. What’s changing — what’s crazy right now — is how you’re doing your business,” David Borkowski said, owner of Changin’ Ways, a Holly Ridge farm that services Wilmington-area restaurants.  

Gearing up for their busiest season, most small local farmers invested ahead of spring production. And now, some find themselves with unforeseen hurdles getting their products to consumers. This may seem odd, given the empty shelves at grocery stores and panicked demand. But bigger chains in need of constant supplies don’t always contract with the little guys — even if they have product available next door.

For farmers lacking a direct-to-consumer pipeline or overly reliant on restaurants — now legally closed for dine-in by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s executive order Wednesday — the Covid-19 crisis is hitting harder.

“Honestly, the farmers are terrified. These are small local farms that operate on really small margins already,” Cara Stretch, director of Feast Down East, said. The non-profit is in need of donations, which it uses to purchase food from local farmers and deliver it to doorsteps in vulnerable communities in the Wilmington area. “On a normal day they suffer from not being able to get food,” Stretch said of low-income residents in the area’s food deserts.

This transition has been even tougher on small farmers not already clued in to social media, Stretch said.

David Borkowski carries grain to feed his laying hens at his farm in Holly Ridge. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
David Borkowski carries grain to feed laying hens at his farm in Holly Ridge. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

Large open-air farmer’s markets in the triangle area have closed, given new legal requirements to limit gatherings of 50 people and federal recommendations to keep gatherings to 10 (New Hanover County is now also legally limiting public an private gatherings to 10). The downtown Wilmington Riverfront Farmers’ Market announced its first Saturday of the season, planned March 28, has been postponed indefinitely.

The Wilmington Farmers Market, held at Wrightsville Beach Brewery while renovations next to Tidal Creek Co-Op continue, is trying something new. First planning to place tents 6 feet apart and up sanitation measures, the market announced Friday it will host its first-ever drive-through.

Live musicians will be on-site (performers are yet another sector hit hard from the stay-in-place recommendations) and vendors will assist shoppers through their window.

Should — for whatever reason — these smaller markets be forced to close, Borkowski said it wouldn’t just hurt small farmers.

“I think it will be an equal blow to the consumers and to the farmers. The consumers are coming because they have a need. And right now, with the situations in the grocery stores, the grocery stores aren’t always able to meet that need,” he said.

A goat approaches the fence at Perryman Farm and Seafood in Hampstead. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
A goat approaches the fence at Perryman Farm and Seafood in Hampstead. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

Major grocery chains are lacking fresh eggs and meat; Borkowski has plenty of both. Because his business model was already diversified (some restaurant accounts, online orders, delivery orders, farmers markets, and his own farm stand), he’s able to more comfortably transition while the service industry falls apart.

“The models are changing and you’ve got to change with it,” he said.

Straight-to-consumer

With 40-50 restaurant accounts making up 60-70% of its business, the recent closures left Terra Vita Farm with excess product. A farm specializing primarily in microgreens based out of Castle Hayne, Terra Vita had salad mixes, white oyster mushrooms, sunflower and pea shoots to sell and no established way to sell them.

“It’s been kind of a learning curve and kind of a rude awakening,” Michael Torbett, owner of Terra Vita Farm said. “If a had a website this transition would be a lot easier.”

James Perryman with his pigs Chicken and Waffles in his Hampstead farm. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
James Perryman with his pigs Chicken and Waffles in his Hampstead farm. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

As a newer farm, Torbett said he shifted plans in the last day or so to accommodate in-person pickups at the farm. “I really just think it’s a matter of all farmers to adjust what they’re doing. A lot of the farmers around here really get propped up by our restaurant scene.” 

After posting about his excess product, Torbett said he received more interest than expected and will now try out curbside pickups at the farm and at-home deliveries.

The support shown so far has been reassuring, Torbett said. “The reason we’re able to do what we do and make a living off of it is this part of the east coast is so progressive and health-oriented,” he said. “Everybody seems to be really on board with this farm to table movement.”

Off Sloop Point Road in Hampstead, James Perryman is trying his hand at carrying on farming at the old Nature’s Way farm. Perryman Farm and Seafood focuses on eggs, goat and cheese milk, with work on more products underway.

James Perryman keeps track of his goat's milk production on a chalkboard in the milking room at Perryman Farm and Seafood in Hampstead. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
James Perryman keeps track of his goat’s milk production on a chalkboard in the milking room at Perryman Farm and Seafood in Hampstead. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

Though end-of-days headlines seem endless, things are surprisingly normal on the farm. A newborn goat took its first breath. Perryman’s pig “Chicken” is due in a month. Waffles, another pig, had babies last month. His biggest worry is getting figuring out how to get more milk out of his goats.

Perryman sells 36 eggs, a half-gallon of milk, a jar of honey, and goat cheese for $25. With farmer’s market numbers dwindling, he’s shifted to an “over-the-fence” business model.

“You pull up,  give a honk or a call and we’ll come out,” he said. Since the coronavirus closures, fewer people are venturing out to the farm. Though he normally participates in local farmer’s markets, he isn’t now. “I’d rather not be at the farmer’s market, but if we’re not, we really fall off people’s map.” 

Most of his orders are organized through social media — not online sales.

At Humble Roots Farm north of Wilmington, owner Kyle Stenersen actually saw sales go up in recent days.

“I was anticipating a sharp decline,” Stenersen said. He lost eight to 12 restaurant accounts this week since the governor’s closure order. “that’s virtually disappeared.”

Because he had an online store and pick-up system already in place, retail sales rose. “We did in one day, we did six times as much as we normally do in a whole week,” he said. “As soon as the mindset was switched in people’s minds, they just attacked it.”

He figures once people saw grocery stores emptying, they thought to seek out alternative options they were already familiar with. The biggest demand is for meat, which Humble Roots will run out of shortly. Produce and eggs will continue to be available for pickup at the farm’s open-air building.

“A local food system is a resilient food system in situations just like this,” Stenersen said.

A goat born just minutes earlier prepares to take its first steps at Perryman Farm and Seafood in Hampstead. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
A goat born just minutes earlier prepares to take its first steps at Perryman Farm and Seafood in Hampstead. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee Still at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

Related Articles