During the pandemic, many of our local producers have had difficulty finding outlets to sell their produce, while distributors, institutional buyers, food banks, and others may need produce. Listed below are opportunities that may be of help now and also in successive seasons. Resources include new information clearinghouses for produce buyers/sellers; opportunities to sell to local distributors, state government, non-profits, or direct-market to consumers; and information on donating excess produce to local food pantries. Though in some areas of the state the food banks may be at capacity, our local pantries are still requesting and accepting produce.
FDACS Offering to Help Producers and Buyers Connect
The FL Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) recently started a “Florida Farm to You” information clearinghouse to connect agribusinesses holding agricultural commodities and those seeking agricultural commodities. Agribusinesses can share information on available products or use their interactive map to find transportation. FDACS posts notices of availability and calls for transportation on their website or sent to potential buyers or food banks. Interested buyers will contact the participating agribusinesses directly, and it will be up to the business and the interested parties to negotiate terms.
FDACS and UF/IFAS are also working together to create a statewide list of farms, distributors, and online markets selling Florida-grown food directly to final consumers. Local food sellers can use a Direct and Online Seller Form to be added to the list. The list will be made public on an FDACS website.
Additionally, Chris Denmark with the Division of Marketing and Development at FDACS wants to help market your farm produce or retail produce operation. Chris is also interested in hearing from growers or others who are already forming cooperatives (for example, farms offering produce from other farms in addition to their own), so that he can assist those efforts to network and support one another. He wants to hear from you! Please reach out to him at: 850-617-7341 or Christopher.Denmark@FDACS.gov.
USDA Offers Food Box Purchase Program
The USDA is offering funding for growers, distributors, and shippers to put together boxes of fresh produce, dairy, and/or meat and provide them to non-profit organizations for storage and distribution. If you have product and are seeking a non-profit to partner with, please see the list and links provided under the “Local Food Pantries” section below.
FL Fruit & Vegetable Association Assists in Marketing Florida Produce
If you or a company you know of is selling product to the public, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information: Company name, address of sales location, phone number, Facebook page, Twitter, produce available for sale, and sales hours. FFVA will share on social media and on their website.
Erneston’s Produce Seeking Local Produce
Mike Lewis of Erneston’s Produce shared that they are still seeking additional product for their clients. One item of particular interest right now is Florida-grown European or seedless cucumbers; their normal supplier now sells to a different buyer. Mike shared that Erneston’s would also like to know of other produce available locally, as they may have additional needs. For more information, contact Mike Lewis at email@example.com or 772-215-6050.
FDACS is working with government buyers to channel more Florida-grown produce into government institutions (correctional facilities, feeding programs, etc.). To be considered a vendor for existing and new buyers, suppliers must register in MyFloridaMarketplace.
Stuart Drive-Thru Green Market Seeking Produce Vendors
Growers or value-added producers are invited to participate at no charge as vendors at the Drive-Thru Green Market at the Martin County Fairgrounds on Sundays, 9 AM til 1 PM. Please contact Jay Spicer, Martin County Fair Manager at 772-631-2853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn about other directories where you can advertise produce you may have available, check out this blog from Kevin Athearn of UF.
Local Food Pantries
Below are listed a couple of food pantries seeking additional product at this time. The list below is just a sampling. To find additional pantries, please see the lists of food pantries in Martin and St. Lucie counties, compiled by the Martin County Interagency Council (MCIC). Many of the MCIC members themselves are 501(c)(3) organizations distributing food to low-income members of the community. To find food banks near you, visit Feeding Florida.
Even when some of the larger food banks reach capacity for produce, which has happened in some cases recently, smaller food pantries may continue to accept and request donations. FDACS offers tax incentives and liability protection for donors. Learn more in English or Spanish.
House of Hope
The House of Hope is taking donations; they continue to offer services to their clientele during this time, including sourcing to other pantries and soup kitchens. They accept deliveries of donations at their Bonita Street location in Stuart, Monday thru Friday. Alternatively, if you would like to arrange a pick-up with them, please call their main line at 772-286-4673.
Chef Carla at LAHIA said they need more fresh produce. Contact Chef Carla at email@example.com or 772-485-3578. They are accepting deliveries and also able to pick up product.
Treasure Coast Food Bank
The Treasure Coast Food Bank continues to accept donations of food at their food drop-off sites.