With the Grinnell Farmers Market set to open the first week of June, I have been mulling over whether Middle Way Farm will participate. After a lot of thought and adjustments the spring, I have decided that Middle Way Farm will not attend the Grinnell Farmers Market this season. We hope to be back at market for the 2021 season.
I have been attending the market as Middle Way Farm since 2013, and for several years prior to that as a small time vendor or employee of another farm. Its been a significant part of Middle Way Farm’s identity, revenue, and seasonal routine. Its been a big part of my social life and how I have established a presence in Grinnell. I will miss the in-person community of market the most and look forward to the time when we can have that community again.
At this time, however, I feel its not a good decision for the farm or our community to participate in a weekly public gathering, even with precautions in place. I want to be clear that I think the Grinnell Farmers Market management is doing the best they can to adapt and try to make the market safe. The problem is that they have been dealt a terrible hand: our state opening up prematurely and having a completely inadequate level of testing and contact tracing and lots of people not wearing masks in public or social distancing. Given these conditions, I feel its much safer and less of a hassle to just offer produce through our website as an alternative to farmers market and continue weekly no contact home delivery and on-farm pick-up. I also suspect that many of our customers will feel the same way.
We’ve seen a surge in demand for our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares over the last 6 weeks, so I have shifted much of our upcoming production towards filling those boxes. Our CSA shares, which starts the first week of June and runs through the second week of October, are currently sold out, but I’ll continue to offer products as they are available in our online store at for home delivery or no contact on-farm pick-up. Our greens will also continue to be available at McNally’s and on the menu at Relish and Lemon Tree Teahouse and Restaurant in Newton.If you’d like to join our customer list for notifications about weekly online orders or if there is an opening in our CSA shares, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have some real concerns about not participating in market. I am concerned about not reaching those customers who I would only see at market by shifting to an online only model of pre-ordering. I will not be able to take SNAP credit or WIC / Senior checks if I don't participate in market. I’m also concerned about the redundancies of having multiple farms and venues that people need to visit or order from to get local food. Several farms in Grinnell are already running their own online orders, Grinnell Farm to Table offers monthly online orders, and now there will also be online pre-orders through market in addition to in-person shopping. I worry that this is going to be inconvenient and exhausting for our customers to try to place multiple orders, make multiple pick-ups, and figure out what they can find where. The beauty of market pre-COVID is ideally it could be a one stop shop for people to find local food.
I really appreciate the statement my friends at Relish made on their website (www.relishgrinnell.com) explaining why they are not reopening their dining room at this time, especially this part: “We feel it's unfortunate that our elected officials seem unwilling to encourage everyone (not just "vulnerable populations") to stay safe because that means differently vulnerable populations (i.e., economically vulnerable) will be coerced into taking risks with their own or their family's health.” Those of us who are not coerced by economic necessity into taking those risks need to use that opportunity to continue to take this pandemic seriously, because its far from over and its far from certain where its going from here. At Middle Way Farm we’re not taking our cues from a state and national government determined to downplay the seriousness of the epidemic, sweep its consequences and its casualties under the rug, and spin their massive bungling and callousness as competence. We’re going to continue to take this pandemic seriously as long as it is circulating in our community and as long as we feel we have a role in preventing that community spread.