Readers of Edible Jersey have long known that the state’s farms are essential businesses. In a densely populated state, we are fortunate to be supported by a diverse range of farms offering direct access to everything from just-picked produce to farmstead cheeses and fresh dairy.
Like no time in recent memory, farmers must think on their feet. Many of the state’s growers rely on sales to restaurants, schools and businesses that have closed or scaled back operations. Our farmers are also grappling with everything from the implications of social distancing on farmers’ markets to a swift uptake in demand as traditional grocery channels struggle to stock shelves. All the while, as distribution channels break down, farmers nationwide are dumping millions of gallons of milk and plowing under crops. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition forecasts an economic loss of $1.32 billion from March to May alone for farms and ranches serving local and regional markets.
Innovation and resilience are qualities long associated with those called to feed their communities. As we talked with farmers statewide in the wake of COVID-19, those words came up again and again—and their effects are visible everywhere.