Nikki Fried: Consumer Conscience Awakening Result of COVID-19

Clint Thompson Coronavirus, Florida, Top Posts

By Clint Thompson

A biproduct of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was the positive response consumers had to supporting American farmers. Nikki Fried, Florida Ag Commissioner, calls it a “consumer conscience awakening.”

File photo shows Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried visits with farmer Paul Allen, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay and Tom MacVicar of MacVicar Consulting.

“When people go to the food stores, they were seeing on one point, you’ve got Mexican strawberries inside of our food stores and then you’re seeing all of the reports of our crops in Florida being plowed under and milk being poured out. They couldn’t understand what was happening,” Fried said. “People started to wake up. People are going to their local farmers, to the farmers markets and to the U-picks. We also kicked off our online marketplace, Farm To You, which allowed about 380 different commodities; we had about 500,000 hits on the webpage. You’re hearing these success stories across the state of Florida and really across the entire country where more and more consumers are going directly to the farmer and building that personal relationship, wanting more domestic grown.”

It is a sentiment that was shared by Paul Allen, president of R.C. Hatton Farms in Belle Glade, Florida and chairman of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association. He said in May that the point of supporting American farmers was received loud and clear amid the pandemic and the constant influx of imports from Mexico.

“The American people have heard everything that’s been on the national media all about Mexico. They’ve stopped buying Mexican produce. They’re buying American produce,” Allen said.

Tough Start to Season

Unfortunately, it was not always this way this season. In a previous interview in early April, Allen said he left about 2 million pounds of green beans in the field and about 5 million pounds of cabbage. All because of the coronavirus pandemic that shut restaurants down and closed off a major supply chain to foodservice industries.