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"Cracker Cattle"

Help for Farmers In COVID-19 Crisis

Open cartons of brown eggs

Fresh eggs at the farmers market; UF/IFAS photo by Marisol Amador

Times are changing.  A quick trip to the store for eggs will yield an adventure in small finance.  Not only are there limited quantities with very few choices, if any, but the prices may be triple those of three weeks ago.  The same is true for farmers, only in reverse. 

bunches of yard-long beans

Harvested yard-long beans; UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones

Many farms which sell their produce exclusively to one buyer are suddenly finding no demand for their product.  It may be a restaurant chain, a school, or even a theme park, such as the Disney Resorts which will buy all the produce of one farm.  But when the buyer closes for the foreseeable future, suddenly there is a huge problem for that farmer.  If they can find a buyer on short notice, the prices they may get could be just a fraction of what they were expecting.  Its like living in the phrase, “Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket”.

While some businesses are closed due to the “Safer at Home” mandate by our Governor, others, such as agriculture, should still be flowing.  The Governors mandate made “moving around” exceptions for all those who work in our food industries.  That includes restaurant workers (who may now become delivery drivers), cooks, food store employees, farmers, shippers, ranchers, harvesters, and those who process those harvested goods.

two women shopping at a produce stand at a farmers market

shopping at a farmers market; UF/IFAS file photo

How Farmers Can Sell Directly to Consumers

Though the Farmers’ Market used to be an option, no longer are those operating due to Covid-19 social distancing.  However, UF/IFAS is compiling a list of farmers and their commodity or products.  You can follow the latest at UF/IFAS on Twitter.  To find the list and get your farm on it, please visit HERE.  This online form has been created to collect the growers’ information.  Submitted information will be made public to help consumers find local and online options for purchasing Florida-grown food during this difficult time.  It also may help farmers identify additional market outlets.  Feel free to circulate this form with other growers you know:  https//forms.gle/s6Hwfy8miH7VfN3G7.

Also available is a list of Florida growers put out by the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFVA).  This is a list of Florida growers taking orders via Facebook or their own websites HERE.  It is free to consult the list, however the farmers pay yearly dues to be part of the association and it is usually used for trade associate members.  Farms selling directly to the public can enter their information at information@ffva.com.

a man and a women holding a rabbit

Examining a market rabbit at Beth Seely’s farm; UF/IFAS file photo

How You Can Help

By purchasing produce from a local farmer, you are supporting them.  But if you are able and would like to help farmers hit hard by the COVID-19 mandate, you may also donate to the American Farmland Trust’s Farmer Relief Fund.  100% of proceeds go to the farmers in need HERE.

Available Help From USDA

There are also numerous Federal Governmental programs available right now to help the small business and struggling Agribusinesses. Their CARES ACT supplies funding in the form of the Paycheck Protections Program which provides loans to be used to keep your employees paid during this time of shut-downs. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) provides relief for current SBA loan program borrowers. These all can offer help right now.

Florida Sea Grant has consolidated much of the above information for small Florida businesses on their website: www.flseagrant.org/disaster-assistance/

Agricultural Commissioner “Nikki” Fried and FDACS are working to support Florida’s dairy farmers and processors through this pandemic.  For more on this see the FDACS  website.

For the latest news on COVID-19 and Coronavirus Disease from the CDC, please see: https://www.usds.gov/coronavirus.

And for the CDC’s Safety Practices for Workers with potential Exposure HERE.

If your farm workers need a letter allowing for them to travel to and from work on the farm, these templates are available on the UF/IFAS blogs HERE.

University of Florida’s Electronic Data Information Source has many current COVID-19 publication: UF/IFAS EDIS topic search COVID-19

UF is also conducting The Assessment of COVID-19 Impacts on Florida, a series of surveys for this purpose. The following can be accessed with these links: