Sheila Foley, owner of Attwood Farm & Kitchen in Poland, left, greets a customer on her porch. Foley has a cooler to facilitate no-contact pickups of her products. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Farmer Jill Agnew’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak is to simply grow more food this season after witnessing a rise in foot traffic at her stand.

Several farmers are also responding in the same way as more customers shop for fresh veggies — and this uptick in business means farmers are taking new approaches to meet the demand.

Willow Pond Farm in Sabattus has a no-contact pickup system for its products. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“It seems like the public is learning where their food comes from,” said Bell Farms owner Raymond Bell, whose family employees include his wife, Pat, brother Dave, sister Sue Dostie, Shane, Molly, Desmond Gagne, India and Ethan. “I’ve been working every day.”

Agnew, owner of Willow Pond Farm in Sabattus, said she is “doing a lot more and we are going to keep our farm stand open all summer, which is not what we usually do.”

She said there has been an increased demand in produce and she is trying different ways to satisfy the demand.

“We have some crops that we were going to sell wholesale this winter,” Agnew said. “Right before the sale happened, this COVID thing happened, and I decided to hang on to them.

“So we have sold potatoes and carrots that were all from last season,” she said. “We still have quite a lot of potatoes, but the carrots are dwindling. I also responded by planting a lot more greens in the greenhouse in February and just planting, planting, planting, and so we are selling a lot of greens.”

Sheila Foley, owner of Attwood Farm & Kitchen in Poland, poses at her farm. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Agnew sold all of her farm eggs and said the Community Supported Agriculture program, where people buy farm shares, has begun, and she has committed the rest of her eggs to shareholders.

“I no longer have any to sell to the public,” she said. “I just sell them to our CSA members … and that’s where we are seeing a big uptick. We do meats, too, and that has really picked up, and we’ve been buying dairy products from another farm so that we have a good range of things that people can buy when they come here.”

Agnew finds it gratifying that customers have come to appreciate farmers.

“It is a little worrisome if we ramp up to this degree,” Agnew said. “Are people going to remember us? We are doing more of everything. I’ve started buying wholesale dry goods to repack and make available to people. People can get flour, nuts and rice and things that have been hard to get.”

Joel Gilbert, owner of Berry Fruit Farm Market and Bakery in Livermore Falls, has made changes to his inventory to meet the need of customers in this crisis.

“We are bringing in more staples that people really need on a daily basis — everything from toilet paper to even to just plain potatoes, stuff like that, that we wouldn’t even carry this time of year,” Gilbert said. “We would be leaning more on pastries, bakeries, that kind of stuff.” 

Sheila Foley, owner of Attwood Farm & Kitchen in Poland, is encouraged that farmers are doing well despite the outbreak.

Willow Pond Farm in Sabattus has a no-contact pickup system for its products. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I’ve actually met more of my neighbors I haven’t even met before,“ said Foley, whose husband, Dr. Charles Foley, a U.S. Army plastic surgeon, is deployed in New York City.

“Not only are we meeting, socially distance wise, but we are selling our products to them as well,” she said.

Foley has kept busy by making extra pies and breads for customers, and she also sells her products at the Little Ridge FarmDrop in Lisbon.

“There seems to be an increased demand for a lot of things,” said Deborah Chadbourne, owner of Western Maine Market in Farmington. “I am hoping to grow a little more.

Willow Pond Farm in Sabattus has a no-contact pickup system for its products. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“So I run this online farmers market and we offer delivery around Franklin County. There has been an increase of orders in the online market,” she said.

Farmer John Carter, owner of Middle Intervale Farm in Bethel, knows there is only one way to meet the growing demand of fresh produce.

“Well, I am planning to plant more vegetables eventually because of COVID-19,” he said. “I am going to farmers markets. I am wearing a mask. The farm stand is busier. I am going to have to concentrate on that business more. I think on the whole, it has been good for us.”

 


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