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First Coast

How To Support Northeast Florida Farms During The Coronavirus Crisis

plants poke out of soil
Edible Northeast Florida
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Gyo Greens Farm in Ponte Vedra Beach

Restaurants are not the only places in the food and beverage world having a tough time right now due to the coronavirus.

Many farmers are too, especially those who rely on restaurants to purchase their crops.

And, to make matters worse, a number of farmers' markets have also shut down, cutting off another way for farmers to sell produce.

On Wednesday’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, Lauren Titus, editor of Edible Northeast Florida, explained what’s happening to all the produce during what is the height of the local growing season:

“We have plenty of food. You know, it's not a shortage of food. It's an inability to shift that distribution and get it where it's needed,” she said. “And it's a real shame that the farmers’ markets are closed because this is when we see so many different fruits and vegetables, from broccoli to cauliflower to beets. Everything is available right now in Northeast Florida. And it's just a challenge getting to it.”

Titus said many local farms are starting to adapt and find other ways to get their crops into the hands of consumers, so that they don’t go to waste and need to be destroyed like they have elsewhere in the state, especially on larger farms that had been more focused on commercial and institutional sales.

“A lot of the local farms have been able to shift to home deliveries and also some centralized drop-off locations, partnering with other businesses. For instance, Down to Earth Farm is partnering with Community Loaves in Murray Hill to set up a drop-off point on Saturday mornings.”

Edible Northeast Florida has a webpage highlighting local farms’ produce and dairy, which are now available for home delivery or pick up at drop-off points (which are adhering to social distancing and sanitizing guidelines and regulations) around town.

Some of them are:

However, Titus noted that some farms will still need local government assistance, just as many other businesses will, but says that the CARES act didn’t address smaller farms.

“That's a serious shortcoming in the legislation that's been passed recently,” she said. “There have been some makeshift funds. American Farmland Trust, for instance, is providing grants to smaller farms. But it's not going to be nearly enough.”

To that end, Nikki Fried, the state’s agriculture commissioner, is also calling for additional assistance for Florida farms. Last week, she called upon the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase surplus goods from Florida farms, proposing that they be used in food assistance programs, so that they don’t go to waste.

Sarah Glenn can be reached at newsteam@wjct.org.

Heather Schatz can be reached at hschatz@wjct.org.