Farm Markets Thrive During Pandemic
MACEDON- The Covid-19 pandemic has been detrimental for many businesses. Many restaurants have had to close their doors permanently. Grocery stores have been struggling to keep items on stocked on the shelves and many places have had to change their hours and the way they do business. Yet throughout the pandemic, farm markets have been one of the few businesses that have been doing well.
As families have been looking for activities that they can still do during the pandemic, many have been choosing to visit these farms and local markets. Many of these local businesses offer a wide range of activities, such as you-pick fruits and vegetables, corn mazes, and mini golf. While the fall is normally the busiest season for these businesses, many have seen even more visitors during the pandemic.
“The season has been stronger. More people have been coming in, starting right in the spring with buying plants and I think you’re going to find across the country, horticulture has had its strongest year ever. Everyone I know has sold out of plants,” said Jim Bauman, owner of Bauman’s Farm Market and Greenhouses in Webster.
Bauman normally orders everything for the upcoming year’s growing season in August or September and has found that everything has been in short supply due to high demand.
Many of these places sell plant products, but they also have many activities that attract families. Carrie Case is a school psychologist. She has had trouble finding ways to get her two kids out of the house during the pandemic and these local businesses have made for many day trips for her and her family.
“Because the kids were unable to go to school and only go part-time now, and most sports and extra-curricular activities were cancelled, the pandemic has given us more time to spend together as a family,” Case said. “On the negative side, it has been difficult for the kids to be extremely limited in their social interactions, which has caused them some depression or anxiety at times.”
Visiting these places has been a fall tradition for Case’s family, but during the pandemic, these activities that these farms offer has allowed the family a chance to get out of the house and spend more time together.
“During the pandemic we have gone to Wickham Farms, Powers Farm Market, Hidden Valley Animal Adventure and the Bristol Mountain High Ropes Course. We like to take them to these places because it gets us all out of the house and doing something fun and adventurous,” Case said.
For Audrey Allen, tasting room and maze manager at Long Acre Farms, the business has been able to continue to operate throughout the pandemic.
“We luckily had one foot in each of the phases of reopening in the spring. Alcohol was deemed essential, so we were able to do curbside pickup and local delivery for all our wine sales. Phase two we were able to do curbside ice cream service as well as walk-up outdoor window service. Phase three was retail, so our market was able to open as well,” Allen said.
The outdoor activities at many of these farms let families still be able to do things together.
“We are generally known for the Amazing Maize Maze, our 5-acre corn maze that we do every year. This is our 23rd year of the maze, and each season we do a different theme,” Allen said. “This year’s theme is Cast Your Vote in honor of 100 years of women’s right to vote as well as a presidential election year.”
These farms are generally family-owned businesses that have been in the family for generations. They each have their own unique history for how they have grown over the years.
“The business was started by my mother in 1957 out by the road and she had a couple of crates and some boards and she started selling tomatoes and over the years it has grown,” Bauman said. “We’ve changed with the times.”
At Long Acre Farms, Allen is the daughter of the owners and plans to take over the business in the future with her sister.
“We are into our 4th generation of the family that owns the farm. It started in the 1920s as a dairy farm, then the next generation switched over to cash crops, such as corn and soybeans,” Allen said. “When my parents took over the farm, they opened a roadside stand for vegetables in 1993, and then slowly built it into what it is today.”
These farms across the area have also had to make some changes during the pandemic.
“We have switched to timed ticketing through our online ticket sales which allows us to control the number of guests so the farm is at limited capacity on our Fall Fun Weekends and Moonlight Maze evenings. We have also set up many sanitation stations around the farm that are clearly marked with a tall red flag,” Allen said.
As far as the future goes for these businesses during the pandemic, Bauman says he is worried about how the pandemic and government regulations may impact the business next year.
“Our big problem now is what is going to happen next year like if people are going to have the disposable income to buy plant products again next year like they did this year,” Bauman said.
Farms and farm markets in the community have been flourishing during the pandemic, providing families with a way to get out of the house during these difficult times.