Some local farms selling produce on-site

Because of supply-chain disruptions due to the coronavirus crisis, some Florida farmers are bypassing the middlemen out of necessity and selling their fresh produce directly to the public on their farms, reports UF/IFAS Regional Vegetable Extension Agent Emeritus Gene McAvoy.

These sales may be key to their staying in business through the pandemic and emerging intact on the other side. The “Produce BlueBook,” an industry publication, reported April 6 that fresh produce purchases by consumers have been lagging far behind sales of other groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The executive orders issued by the governors of 47 states (as of Monday) have had “tremendous impact on grocery and produce sales,” according to the report. Consumers now are splitting their produce spending three ways, however — “between fresh, frozen and shelf-stable.

“This is why fresh produce never saw the kind of surge in sales that we’ve seen in fresh meat or other perimeter departments. At this point, many shoppers are looking to minimize trips. It’s important to encourage fresh produce consumption by providing tips about items for now and items with longer shelf-life to have ample fresh fruit and vegetables for the entire week,” said Joe Watson, vice president of membership and engagement for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA).

Consumer demand shifts
Sales of fresh produce were up 8.1% during the week of March 29-April 4; however, in sharp contrast, shelf-stable item sales were up 51% and frozen items, 41.6%.

Stated Mr. Watson: “The produce industry is a resilient business, but farmers and producers of fresh fruits and vegetables need our support now more than ever as many restaurants are doing a fraction of their normal volume and this is having downward pressure on prices. We are actively working to connect supply with shift in demand from food service to food retailing and fresh to frozen and canned. Additionally, it is important to reassure Americans that fresh produce is safe and emphasize the very important role of produce in building the immune system.”

Consequently, Mr. McAvoy, who now serves as associate director for stakeholder relations at the University of Florida/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, has been spreading the word on how Floridians can help support their neighbors who feed Americans from the land. On April 8, he disseminated to his broad network some up-to-date information on regional farmers now selling directly.

Mr. McAvoy commended a colleague of his who’s compiled a list of Florida farms that are selling produce for curbside pickup.

“Kaylan Royal, a Florida Farm Bureau member, Young Farmer and Rancher and an amazing Ag-vocate for Florida agriculture, has put together a comprehensive listing of local farms and farm stands across the state offering #FreshfromFlorida fruits and vegetables to consumers,” he wrote in an email April 8.

For a list of opportunities to purchase fresh produce, go online to floridafarmbureau.org or follow the link to the Florida Farm Bureau website on the Lake Okeechobee Facebook page. The Farm Bureau list is subject to daily changes.

Below is a link to a list of farms selling direct:

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