Locally grown food, plants and fresh air are some of the reasons people enjoy going to farm shops, farmers markets and garden centers. The COVID-19 pandemic has made these businesses even more popular.
“Business has been above usual this year,” said Ashley Vescera, garden center manager at Winterberry Gardens in Southington. “I want to say that the amount of people walking in has doubled.”
All of these businesses have had to make changes to keep staff and customers safe.
At the start of the pandemic, Lyman Orchards in Middlefield had to cancel big events and focus on the farm market.
“It’s basically pure grocery shopping,” said Lyman Orchards CFO David Bujese. “We’ve adapted a little to try to meet the customers’ demands. We’ve added meat, things like that, so they can do a full trip here versus just produce.”
Rogers Orchards in Southington created an online curbside pickup model.
“We went from a farm stand and then in a matter of days, we reinvented our farm stand into a curbside model,” said Peter Rogers, president of Rogers Orchards. “So ordering online, making payments online securely, gathering somebody’s order, building that order and having it ready for curbside pickup. It’s a labor intensive project when you think of building the site.”
Winterberry Gardens created the online store they had been planning for some time. The pandemic helped speed up the process.
“So we added (the online store) so people don’t have to come in and shop if they don’t want to,” Vescera said.
The Durham Farmers Market has been holding an in-person market to try to bring a sense of comfort to the community.
“That has been very important. I can’t count the number of people that have been grateful for us keeping this market running throughout this whole pandemic,” said Market Master Jon Scagnelli.
Despite the differences in how these businesses are running, they all want to continue to provide local products.
“I think moving forward people are realizing more that it is important to shop local,” Scagnelli said. “I think people are realizing this more now than ever as this pandemic happened.”