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How Are Hudson Valley Farms Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Farmers’ markets throughout the Valley remain open. It’s never been a better time to support local farmers and food vendors.
Photo courtesy of Rhinebeck Farmers Market

Three days after Governor Cuomo ordered the ban on dine-in services last March, Common Hands Farm in Philmont sent their wholesale list to 80 restaurants with whom they typically work. None replied.

“Farms have such a small margin, especially at the beginning of the growing season; the first thing we realized with restaurant closures is that it would impact a good percentage of our sales,” says Keri-Sue Lewis, who co-runs the organic and biodynamic farm.

They had planned to hire new staff for the growing season, but like some many other aspects of life, those plans were immediately postponed due to uncertainty. “It’s scary,” Lewis adds. “Not just for us, but for restaurants and people who typically depend on them to access food.”

Farms have had to explore new sales outlets during the coronavirus crisis. Photo by Zoraida Lopez-Diago

This drop in sales among farmers challenged many to develop sudden, innovative ways of ensuring income, before some crops have even sprouted. Common Hands began offering grocery boxes filled with eggs, pea shoots, salad mix, pork, and other options that buyers could choose from. Their first run of 10 boxes sold immediately.

“Things are changing so fast, but we have to consider that some farm markets might not open, or might not have a large turnout,” Lewis says. “But people want to eat healthy food and support small businesses. We feel hopeful that the plants we grow will find homes in people’s bellies.”

Photo by Michael Nelson

Kilcoyne Farms, a family-owned beef farm in Hudson Falls that services restaurants, first noticed lower sales when people started dining out less due to virus concerns, but were delivered a blow when clients closed. “The reality is that many restaurants we work with can’t make the takeout-only approach work,” says bookkeeper Jake McLaughlin. “But they’re trying, and we’ll do our best to ride out the storm with them.”

In the meantime, they’ve attempted a small level of consumer sales. “We’ve had to scramble to get some things set up, but we’ve tried to let people know we have product available, to help keep the tractor wheels turning.”

Photo by Mark Bauman

Though Germantown-based venison purveyor Highland Farm does sell direct to consumers, all restaurant orders ceased after the ban. “We’ve been reaching out to wholesale accounts like grocery stores, making sure they’re stocked,” says sales manager Claire MacNamara, whose parents own the farm. “In some cases, we’re not just delivering, but helping their staff get items priced and out for sale just to lend a helping hand because they’re swamped.”

They’ve also offered free local delivery for online orders. “It’s hard to know how things will change over time, but we’re hopeful that customers continue to patronize local farms,” she says. “We’ve experienced a sharp decrease in sales, and an uncertain future, but we are here working, caring for the animals, and hoping that we get some good news soon. Farmers are nothing if not resilient.”

Finding Local Food

Amenia Farmers’ Market
Fridays, 3–7 p.m.

Cold Spring Farmers’ Market
Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.–1 p.m.

Copake Hillsdale Farmers’ Market
May 23–October 31
Saturdays, 9 a.m.–1 p.m.

Empire State Plaza Farmers’ Market
May–September (outdoors)
Wednesdays, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.

Goshen Farmers’ Market
May 22–October 30
Fridays, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Find them on Facebook

Hudson Farmers’ Market
April 25-November 21
Saturdays, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.

Kingston Farmers’ Market
May 9-November 21
Saturdays, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.

Pleasantville Farmers’ Market
Through December 26
Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.–1 p.m.

Poughkeepsie Waterfront Market
June 1–September 28
Mondays, 3–6:30 p.m.

Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market
10 a.m.–2 p.m.

Rosendale Farmers’ Market
10 a.m–2 p.m.

Saugerties Farmers’ Market
Memorial Day–Halloween
Saturdays, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.

Troy Waterfront Farmers’ Market
Saturdays, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.

Warwick Valley Farmers’ Market
May 10–November 22
Sundays, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.