April 2, 2020

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County Seeks to Shine a Positive Light for Local Farms

Among all the social distancing, self-quarantines, and the continuous headlines throughout the media pertaining to COVID-19, The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County would like to bring a positive story to light. Jessica Holmes and Nicolina Foti, from the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County, interviewed three farms to find out, first-hand, the impact COVID-19 has on the agricultural community.

This story is the relationship between the consumer and the direct market farmers. Sprinkled throughout Saratoga County are many farm stores that have been serving customers directly for years. During COVID-19 and this time of uncertainty, the relationship between the consumer and theses farmers has strengthened and flourished.

Chuck Curtiss of Willow Marsh Farm in Ballston Spa, NY
Willow Marsh Farm has seen an increase in milk, eggs, yogurt, and butter sales with the uncertainty of COVID-19. They have also seen an increase in new wholesale accounts and an increase in supply for existing accounts. Willow Marsh Farm has seen an influx of new
customers. Chuck Curtiss said, “I think there has been a realization from people as to what real, locally sourced food is.”

Becky King of King Brothers Dairy in Schuylerville, NY
King Brothers Dairy’s home delivery service has increased strengthening the connection between the farmer and the consumer, breathing life back into the times of the milkman. King Brothers Dairy, in the past week, has seen a fifty percent increase in their new consumer base. Becky King said, “I hope we will retain the customers we have obtained during COVID-19, but what I am sure of is the bridge in the educational gap from how we get our food and where it comes from.”

Shelley Smith of Smiths Orchard in Charlton, NY
Smith’s Orchard has been stocking their meat in the freezer as fast as it has been leaving. They have also been advertising sales on applesauce apples as a fun family quarantine activity. While they have decided to close the doors to their pie shop for the next two weeks, they will be
accepting orders with scheduled pickups. Shelley Smith said, “It is unfortunate to close the pie shop doors, but it is for the safety of our family and our customers.” Hopefully, this will help for the preparation and influx to be anticipated with the coming Easter holiday. COVID-19 or not, people still need their Smiths Pies.

Since the start of COVID-19, all three farms found an increase in sales. New and old customers seeking food that is no longer on grocery store shelves, and to avoid large crowds. The most sought-after products being milk, eggs, butter, and meat. One of the most humbling pieces of information was to find in each of these farm stores they not only provide their products but those of surrounding farms. Becky King said,
“There is this symbiotic relationship between all of the farms, and how we find a way to survive.” When speaking to each of these farmers, the takeaway from these circumstances is that people are getting “back to the basics.” Getting back to what is essential, real, quality food that is coming directly from the farmer’s hands. Many people have come to realize the grocery store shelves are picked over, but the farms are fully stocked. Chuck Curtiss said, “It is sad it had to happen like this, but there will be a silver lining.”