By Clint Thompson
Produce farmers in the Southeast are struggling with markets that have disappeared because of the loss of restaurants and closure of schools amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But Max Runge, Extension specialist in agricultural economics and rural sociology at Auburn University, believes farmers markets remain a viable option for fruit and vegetable growers, especially those who operate on a lower scale.
“We’ve had pretty good farmers’ markets across Alabama. A number of producers sold through those. I think those are still going to be strong,” Runge said. “I think the market that we have lost is the farm-to-table where the farmers are selling directly to restaurants. We’ve lost that market, at least for now. But I think the smaller production to farmers market that are selling locally, I think those will be okay.”
Florida fruits and vegetables farmers have struggled over the past month with their food service market drying up, amid restaurants across the U.S. being forced to closed. Many had to leave perfectly good produce in the field just because they didn’t have a buyer to sell to.
Runge believes, though, that his state’s smaller produce farmers could still reap the benefits at area farmers markets.
“We don’t nearly have the large commercial operation that there is in Southwest Georgia. We’ve got some. But the majority of them are smaller producers and I think those will hold on,” Runge said. “A lot of those have customers that they’ve sold to for years at these farmers’ markets, and they come back year after year. I think that’ll continue. I think there may be some more interest from people that maybe haven’t purchased from them in the past. And they’re certainly taking advantage of the farmers’ markets.”