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Friday, June 5, 2020

Top Stories > Agriculture

Farmers answer the call during coronavirus pandemic

Mar 26, 2020

By Isabel Braverman - staff writer

By: ISABEL BRAVERMAN | DEMOCRAT
Eugene Thalmann, owner of Sprouting Dreams Farm in Liberty, sold out of his microgreens and sprouts at the Callicoon Farmers Market within an hour on Sunday.
REGION — If you've been to a grocery store lately, you've probably noticed the shelves looking a little bare. The coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on many aspects of life, and unfortunately the food system is one of them.
Fortunately we live in an area where local farms abound. Many of those farms and other food and goods producers sell at the various farmers' markets around the area.
“It's really important to ensure that our regional economy can stay afloat in uncertain times. I believe that farmers are our national security.
With us producing food, we can feed our public and ensure that we have peace,” said Callicoon Farmers Market Board Vice President, Eugene Thalmann.
The Callicoon market was moved from the Delaware Youth Center to its outdoor location at Callicoon Creek Park this past Sunday. The market sent out an email beforehand about safety precautions they would take, including spacing vendor tents out and having only vendors handle the food.
“Having a good, stable source of food that people know where it's coming from, they feel that they're being nourished by someone that's trusted and respected. They feel like they're a part of the process a little bit more,” Thalmann, who also owns Sprouting Dreams Farm in Liberty, said.
Board President Kalan Joslin, who is also a co-owner of Lucky Dog Organic Farm, said that sales have been up.
“Last week was really the first time that we felt the touch of this whole thing with the coronavirus pandemic, and it was immediately apparent in the outturn of customers to last weekend's market. We saw a 100 percent increase in sales across all the vendors,” Joslin remarked.
On Sunday, Thalmann sold out of his product (microgreens) within an hour.
Joslin said Lucky Dog is also still going to the New York City Green Markets at Union Square in Manhattan and in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
“We have a job as farmers to provide food to the people that need it,” he said.
The market on Sunday did have crowds of people, and market organizers are hoping to keep social distancing measures in place. For upcoming markets they are looking for volunteers to help usher people into the park to keep crowds at a minimum.
Meanwhile, the Barryville Farmers' Market is doing things a little differently by cutting out person-to-person interaction.
“Even though our market wasn't set to open until Memorial Day, we saw that there was a real need to get people food, and to comfort them with some sense of normalcy in these not-so-normal times,” said Treasurer George Billard. “And so we reached out to our farmers to see what they had, and although for many it's not growing season yet, we very quickly launched this initiative, which we're calling the Barryville Farmers' Market Victory Garden Project.”
It's named after a time during World War I and World War II in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany when governments encouraged people to plant their own fruit, vegetable and herb gardens in their homes and public spaces, not only to provide for the supply chain, but also to boost morale.
“Like everyone, we were going to our local market and seeing the shelves neglected, the place looked like it had been looted, and I think that's for a couple of reasons. One is the general panic buying, but two, especially in this community where 50 percent of the homes are second homes, everyone came up here and I think that caught some of the markets a little flat-footed, because suddenly they had two sets of panic buyers,” Billard said.
Just days before the Barryville Market set to open, they introduced an online platform where customers could pre-order a bag filled with local goods, and pick it up at the same location and time (Saturday from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the United Methodist Church, 3405 State Route 97 in Barryville.)
You will be greeted by someone who will take your name and hand you the bag, either through the window or placed in your trunk. You don't need to get out of your car.
There are four different options: omnivore, vegetarian, carnivore (just meat) and brunch (all of the breakfast fixings).
Go to www.barryvillefarmersmarket.org for more info and to place your order. They are also encouraging people to make a donation to provide bags to families in need.
The Catskills Food Hub, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary, is also offering customers an online ordering platform. You can place an order online Friday through Sunday and pick it up at the Hub in Liberty, or at Fare Haven in Livingston Manor on Wednesdays. Go to www.catskillsfoodhub.org.
Executive Director Cat Wilson said volunteers have been busy filling orders and are following strict safety protocols, including wearing gloves and using new disposable bags and boxes. They are also screened for possible coronavirus symptoms before entering the building.
The Hub offers a variety of items such as produce, meat, dairy, baked goods and pantry essentials. Wilson says in the past two weeks sales have increased 100 percent.
“It's incredible the amount of support we've gotten from the community,” she said. “People are really supporting farms in a great way right now. There are a lot of community organizations who are stepping up to help get food to those in need, and we want to be one of those.”
While everyone struggles to go about their way of life during this time, farmers are still out in the field.
“You can't stop working as a farmer,” Thalmann said. “Farmers are the most self-sufficient people and the hardest working people in our country. We're outside all the time. Nothing has really changed.
“When it comes down to it, a tomato plant is still started at this time, it's still cared for in this way, and the rain still falls this way and still grows and people are still going to want to eat it.”
However, farms aren't exempt from the “new normal,” and Joslin questions if stricter food safety measures will be put in place once this is all over.
“It's uncharted territory,” he remarked. “It's a little stressful, but at the same time it's a little liberating knowing that I'm not alone and all other business owners are going through a difficult time and maybe a difficult transition into a new way of doing things. All I can do is be positive and optimistic.”

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