Demand for local food increasing during pandemic
WINGHAM, ONT. -- Seventy per cent of Firmly Rooted’s vegetables used to be sold to restaurants and at farmer’s markets. COVID-19 changed that.
So Firmly Rooted changed too, moving to a delivery method to keep up with increased interest in their produce.
Tamara McMullen operates Firmly Rooted Farm near Belgrave, Ont. with her husband, Brian.
“Demand is incredibly high. People are so excited by local food, right now. I think it’s making them feel secure in these uncertain times,” McMullen says.
David Scherpenzeel from the Hometown Food Basket in Wingham has noticed the same trend.
Sales at its local food store have doubled since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Some feel safer coming into a smaller space. For some it’s the fact that there are less hands touching each of the products. Most of our products come right from the farmers, to us, to the consumer,” says Scherpenzeel.
But filling the increasing demand for local food hasn’t been easy.
With no or limited farmers' markets, local producers like Hillsview Farms near Lucknow have transitioned to online food sales.
So, there’s less time in the fields and more time answering emails and filling out spreadsheets.
“I’m not the most techie person, so it’s been challenging,” says Hillsview Farms co-owner, Wanda Hill.
“Early on with so few markets open, we had to get to as many people as we could online. Now that the markets are starting to open, that limits us getting to as many places as we would like,” she says.
Both Firmly Rooted and Hillsview Farms plan to move forward with some sort of hybrid model of their pre-pandemic and post-pandemic supply chains.
They’re banking on the interest in their locally grown products to continue.
“I hope people remember that local food is important to them, when all this is over,” says McMullen.