By Clint Thompson
Now more than ever, buy Georgia Grown. Georgia’s agricultural industries are highlighting this message during the state’s peak season of harvesting produce. Georgia Farm Bureau, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association are promoting Georgia Grown produce at a time when the state’s farmers need them the most.
“We need folks asking their produce managers, if they go into a grocery store and there’s not Georgia Grown or American Grown produce in there, they need to ask where is it at,” said Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association. “We need for consumers to support the American farmer, to get American Grown, Georgia Grown produce. Because, as that slogan says it’s, ‘Now, more than ever.’”
The impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has devastated markets for fruit and vegetable farmers across the country. The absence of the foodservice industry for almost two months derailed producers’ bid for a productive season. Farmers in Florida have had to leave produce in the field just because of the lack of potential buyers.
Alternate Way of Doing Business
Georgia farmer Bill Brim, co-owner of Lewis Taylor Farms in Tifton, Georgia said he’s lost thousands of boxes of orders due to the pandemic. But he’s found a way to sell part of his excess produce. He’s boxed up produce with different fruit and vegetables and sold directly to consumers for $20 each the last three weeks. Last week, Brim sold between 1,300 and 1,400 of boxed produce. It’s lessened the sting a bit. It also helps consumers become more aware of buying local produce.
“I think that growers are looking at alternatives. Boxing up and having a direct farm sale is not going to replace tractor trailers that are going out of the packing shed packed with produce. That’s not going to replace the need for getting produce into the produce chain,” Hall said. “Most of our growers are shipping to the north of us, into South Carolina and North Carolina, into the Midwest and Northeast. Direct sales off the farm is not 100% of the solution. But it certainly helps, when you can move 1,000, 500, 300, whatever it might be. Boxes of produce to your friends and neighbors. They are able to get it fresh. They know it’s fresh coming off land near them.”
While market prices are less than ideal, they could make a turnaround as businesses and restaurants begin to open back up. This could benefit Georgia farmers as they hit their peak season.
“I think it’s cautious concern to what the market is going to do. The movement on the market right now is slow,” Hall said. “If some of the restaurants and foodservice chains begin to open back up, we are just getting into our peak season, so we could see additional markets there. It’s slower than we want it to be right now, but it could pick up.”