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Issues Of The Environment: Local Agricultural Community Finding Collective Strength During Pandemic

Nov 25, 2020

Produce from Slow Farm
Credit Slow Farm Organic U-Pick / Facebook

The pandemic has impacted all parts of our economy, including the local agricultural community.  But, there are positives that have resulted and reasons for giving thanks, too!  Kim Bayer is owner of Slow Farm in Washtenaw County.  She joined WEMU's David Fair to discuss COVID-19 impacts on local farming for this week's "Issues of the Environment." 


Overview

  • The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic left small, local farmers, especially U-pick operations like Slow Farm, wondering what would become of them.
  • When the pandemic disrupted food systems and infrastructure, people suddenly caught on to the need for a more robust local food network.  This awakening seems to be a trend that will drive consumers to purchase more locally produced food after the COVID crisis subsides.  In the end, 2020 was a good year for small farmers selling directly to the public in Washtenaw County.
  • Slow Farm is a certified organic farm, which is unique among U-pick farms. (It is the only one in Washtenaw County.)  They have approximately 20 acres under cultivation and grow about 100 different varieties of fruits, vegetables, and flowers.  The farm also grows a vast variety of tomatoes and squashes which are considered endangered food varieties by the Ark of Taste.  In 2020, they farm needed to pivot to scheduling U-pick appointments and contactless pickup, but it has worked.
  • Kim Bayer, owner of Slow Farm and also the Slow Food Governor for Michigan, says that, while the 2020 farming season began with a lot of anxiety, it has turned out to be a very successful season.  Her farm joined with several others in the region to bring online ordering of locally farmed produce, meats, and bakery items to customers -- something none of these small operations was considering before the pandemic and has been a boon.  Because of the pandemic, people are cooking at home more, and they want food that supports their health.
  • Right now, for Thanksgiving, the farm has large baskets of various squashes that will keep in the proper environment without refrigeration or canning.
  • In addressing food waste, food that is normally picked up by Food Gatherers, for example, hasn’t been because of the pandemic and logistics related to it.  However, they are supplying the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market, which is open year-round, and farm stops in Ann Arbor, Manchester, and Chelsea.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu