St. Louis farmers and markets are making changes during COVID-19 pandemic photo courtesy of unsplash

St. Louis area farmers adapt amid the coronavirus crisis

As bar and restaurant closures and times of uncertainty continue, local farmers and farmers markets are beginning to change their sales practices to ensure the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t force an early end to their season.

Local chef and restaurant consultant Rex Hale said the farmers he works with are taking this crisis very seriously and have begun to react quickly. He highlighted the need of the community needing to come together and support both farmers and local business owners.

“Not only is it local farmers, but local restaurateurs are out of work too,” he said. “Everyone that is displaced, somebody needs to be looking after them. … If you’re not putting your money into your local economy, you’re nuts. Everybody needs your help right now.”

Hale said Known & Grown STL, an organization that aims to educate the public by promoting sustainable farming practices/food sources, will be a big player in getting farmers back on track.

“Known & Grown STL is supporting everybody,” Hale said. “Everybody is going to have an online site shortly. Some of them already had them. They’re all going to start delivering.”

Known & Grown STL manager Jenn DeRose said buying local has always been important but even more so during this crisis.

“Local food has just never been more important,” she said. “Our food system is being disrupted. In this moment, local food helps your community, helps money stay local, and it’s presumably safer than alternatives because it’s just been touched by less hands and had to travel less distance. You can’t do better for yourself, your family and your community than buying for local farmers in this moment. [The food] is fresh and it needs to get eaten.”

According to a spreadsheet on Known & Grown STL’s webpage, local grocery stores such as Local Harvest Grocery, City Greens Market and Old North Provisions will offer goods for pickup from purveyors like Bee Simple City Farm, EarthDance Organic Farm, Ozark Forest Mushrooms, Good Life Growing and more. A second spreadsheet details local restaurants that source fresh food from Known & Grown STL farmers and whether those restaurants are closed or are providing curbside and carryout services.

Farmers markets like Tower Grove Farmer’s Market and Point Labaddie Farmers’ Market and local farms like Such and Such Farms, Legacy Circle Farms and many more will begin offering online ordering, delivery and pickup.

Known & Grown STL and SlowFood STL have created a GoFundMe page to provide direct donations and stipends to farmers who are struggling. Provided to farmers $100 at a time, DeRose said, this money will ensure farms have the income necessary to keep rolling over the next couple of weeks.

“They must be a Known & Grown farmer to be eligible,” she said. “We have 42 farms in the program, but several are nonprofit, and we will be prioritizing the small family, for-profit farms. Last time I checked, there was about $600 in there, so we really need donations.”

As we head into the seasons when farmers tend to make the majority of their incomes and risk not being able to sell their fresh product before it turns, DeRose explained, it’s critical for citizens to think of how our reactions to the current moment will impact the future.

“I guess, Known & Grown right now, what we are trying to do is build a more resilient food system,” she said. “And to do that we need the participation of eaters. We need everybody in this moment to really consider where their money is going to and how they want our food system to look in the future.”

Brenna Sullivan is an editorial intern at Sauce Magazine.