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Purdue Extension: Expert Resources for COVID-19
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FOOD: A Consumer Guide to Buying from Local Farmers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 18, 2020
Blackberries

ARTICLE UPDATED: 05/12/2020

 

Spring is a time when we prepare gardens for new seedlings, clear pots for new flowers, visit farmers’ markets, and enjoy fresh, locally produced fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, eggs, grains and much more.

COVID-19 has created unprecedented disruption to these seasonal plans in Indiana. Although farmers' markets have been deemed "essential" by the executive order of Governor Eric J. Holcomb, changes to market infrastructures and best practices could limit the participation from vendors you've come to know and trust.

When you directly connect with farmers and buy their goods, you help protect those who rely on sales for their livelihoods and who have already invested in supplies, seed and seasonal operating costs.

Just as there are additional ways for local farmers to reach consumers at this time, there are outlets for you to engage with farmers, establish direct contact and make your purchases.

This guide helps you navigate these uncertain times by offering: 

 

Communication

Thanks to social media and other digital methods of communication, it has never been easier for you to reach out directly to your local farmer and offer positive reinforcement along with your business. 

Many Indiana farms maintain a regular presence on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram — sharing news about their operation and information about product availability. 

However, now is the time to begin a direct dialogue with local farmers. Don’t wait until they are inundated with requests. 

Consider reaching out to them in the following ways: 

Some farmers may pivot to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model — in which they assemble a packaged box of goods that you can pick up or potentially have delivered to your home. Ask farmers if they’re considering a CSA model and learn more about their CSA plan. 

To find farmers in your area, use the following resources: 

 

Alternative Marketplaces

If they are unable to participate in farmers' markets, local producers will do their best to set up alternative marketplaces where they can sell directly to you. When you reach out to local farmers, ask them how they intend to deliver their goods to you if traditional outlets are not an option. 

In that scenario, local farmers may: 

Purdue Extension has advised local farmers to take precautions that protect their products from weather damage and that minimize the potential to spread COVID-19. 

Purdue Extension advises that you ask local farmers: 

Please be patient and flexible with local farmers as they adapt to rapidly changing conditions. Developments concerning COVID-19 are fluid, and plans may need to change on a moment’s notice. 

 

Know What’s Healthy and in Season

Fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers are mainstays of local farmers’ markets. But what is most readily available right now — or in summer or fall seasons? Visit Purdue Extension’s FoodLink for a guide to seasonal produce, nutritional information, recipes and more. 

 

Food Safety

Local farmers take pride in delivering food that is fresh, locally sourced and safe to consume. Nevertheless, please take precautions that assist them and minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. 

Once you’re ready to use what you’ve purchased, be sure to follow expert guidelines for safe food handling — as recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

 

Authors:

Tamara Benjamin, Assistant Program Leader and Diversified Agriculture Specialist – Purdue Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources

 

Elizabeth Maynard, Clinical Engagement Associate Professor of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Purdue University and Purdue Extension Commercial Vegetable Production Specialist

 

Michael O’Donnell, Purdue Extension Educator in Organic and Diversified Agriculture

 

Nathan Shoaf, Purdue Extension Urban Agriculture State Coordinator

 

Heather Tallman, Indiana Grown Program Director, Indiana State Department of Agriculture

 

Amy Thompson, Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator, Purdue Extension – Monroe County

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