Prices drop as supply chain retools to meet changing consumer needs
Because of supply-chain disruptions due to the coronavirus crisis, some Florida farmers are bypassing the middlemen out of necessity and selling their fresh produce directly to the public on their farms, reports UF/IFAS Regional Vegetable Extension Agent Emeritus Gene McAvoy.
These sales may be key to their staying in business through the pandemic and emerging intact on the other side. The “Produce BlueBook,” an industry publication, reported April 6 that fresh produce purchases by consumers have been lagging far behind sales of other groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The executive orders issued by the governors of 47 states (as of Monday) have had “tremendous impact on grocery and produce sales,” according to the report. Consumers now are splitting their produce spending three ways, however — “between fresh, frozen and shelf-stable.
“This is why fresh produce never saw the kind of surge in sales that we’ve seen in fresh meat or other perimeter departments. At this point, many shoppers are looking to minimize trips. It’s important to encourage fresh produce consumption by providing tips about items for now and items with longer shelf-life to have ample fresh fruit and vegetables for the entire week,” said Joe Watson, vice president of membership and engagement for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA).
Consumer demand shifts
Sales of fresh produce were up 8.1% during the week of March 29-April 4; however, in sharp contrast, shelf-stable item sales were up 51% and frozen items, 41.6%.
Stated Mr. Watson: “The produce industry is a resilient business, but farmers and producers of fresh fruits and vegetables need our support now more than ever as many restaurants are doing a fraction of their normal volume and this is having downward pressure on prices. We are actively working to connect supply with shift in demand from food service to food retailing and fresh to frozen and canned. Additionally, it is important to reassure Americans that fresh produce is safe and emphasize the very important role of produce in building the immune system.”
Consequently, Mr. McAvoy, who now serves as associate director for stakeholder relations at the University of Florida/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, has been spreading the word on how Floridians can help support their neighbors who feed Americans from the land. On April 8, he disseminated to his broad network some up-to-date information on regional farmers now selling directly.
Mr. McAvoy commended a colleague of his who’s compiled a list of Florida farms that are selling produce for curbside pickup.
“Kaylan Royal, a Florida Farm Bureau member, Young Farmer and Rancher and an amazing Ag-vocate for Florida agriculture, has put together a comprehensive listing of local farms and farm stands across the state offering #FreshfromFlorida fruits and vegetables to consumers,” he wrote in an email April 8.
Direct veggie sales ongoing
The list below is culled from those resources, as well as information from the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association:
• Another “Last Chance Produce Sale” will take place at the Farmers Alliance packinghouse on Saturday, April 11, at 212 Jerome Drive in Immokalee from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. It is drive-up only, and they ask that you stay inside your vehicle. Sales are cash only as well: $10 a box and $5 watermelons.
• Bedner’s Farm Fresh Market, 10066 Lee Road, Boynton Beach, 33473, from 9 a.m. every day until they sell out: produce varies each day — mixed box of colorful produce. Call 561-733-5490 for more information, or check their Facebook page or website, bedners.com, for updates.
• Branch – A Family of Farms, 330 U.S. 27, South Bay, 33493: From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, you can find the “Family Essential Box, $12 — 12 ears of corn, 5 lbs. snipped beans, and two heads of cabbage. Bulk corn, beans, cabbage and leaf items as well.” Call 561-996-0335 for more information, or check their Facebook page for updates
• Farmhouse Tomatoes Inc., 1001 Okeechobee Road, West Palm Beach, 33401: From April 1 through June 1, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., get a “10 lb. box of greenhouse-grown authentic family beefsteak heirloom tomato varieties.” Call 561-718-4733 for more information, or visit their website, farmhousetomatoes.com.
• Oli’s Fashion Cuisine using local farm vegetables, 10610 Forest Hill Blvd, #20, Wellington, 33414 (parking lot curbside pickup): During April 9-11, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., you can purchase a “mixed box of vegetables and fruit (product varies), including TKM, Hundley, H&A and Mecca Farms.” Call 561-792-2220 or check their Facebook page for updates and information on future sales.
• Wilkinson-Copper Produce, 701 N.W. 12th St., Belle Glade, 33430: From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., shoppers may buy sweet corn, celery, eggplant, pepper, cabbage, radishes and beans. Call 561-996-6537 for more information.
• Mecca Farms, 7965 Lantana Road, Lake Worth, 33467: “NO BOX LIMIT!”, they want you to know. “This is a drive-thru event! You pull up, lower your window, tell us your order/pay, and pop your trunk; we will load it. We will be open throughout the week until Saturday, April 11. Among their offerings are: $10 for a box of fresh produce; leave an envelope and enclosed cash in the trunk to have NO contact. Fruit boxes ($10 each) consist of: honeydew, cantaloupe and blueberries (while supplies last; no individual blueberry boxes); Mixed Vegetable Box ($10 each): lettuce, corn, eggplant, banana pepper, red and yellow tomatoes, cucumber, yellow squash, zucchini, green bell peppers and Poblano peppers (while supplies last; items can vary based on supply). Individual product boxes, at $10 each, are also available: red tomatoes, yellow tomatoe, green bell peppers, cucumber, corn, Poblano peppers and Cubanelle peppers. No mixing of veggies is allowed, and they accept cash or Venmo — @MeccaFamilyFarms.
Mr. McAvoy asks that if any reader or a company they know of is selling product to the public, please email firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible with this information — company name, address of sales location, phone number, Facebook page and/or website, produce available for sale and sales hours. The FFVA will share on social media and on its website, and he will also disseminate the information via other channels.