The last month has been super crazy for us all. As a farmer, the marketing channel disruptions were the most stressful this past month, as we struggled to figure out where we would be able to sell our food. I farm with my husband at Green Toe Ground Farm in Yancey County. We are CRAFT members and I run the Farm Beginnings program for OGS. We are members of Asheville City Market (ACM) and the North Asheville Tailgate Market. Due to restrictions on gathering sizes as well as closures to one of the venues (UNCA), both markets seemed doomed to be closed in the beginning of the season. When the word came from our managers at markets that they would not open, we accepted it and started to check out other outlets around the state and country to figure out what to do. A couple of weeks in, a planning team from the North Asheville Tailgate Market got together via Zoom to brainstorm what to do about UNCA’s campus closure and through some diligent efforts, we got our market reopened for May 2nd.
The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project Starts COVID “Social Distancing” Market Outlet
Also, luckily, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), host of the ACM market, sprung into action and figured out a viable short term option for a market, the ASAP Farmers Market at the AB Tech Community College. I was able to sell twice at this new “social distancing” market; I had heard that customers were ravenous for local food and I had also seen a lot of fear online about the food supply. Ironically, April is not usually a super abundant vegetable time for farmers in our region. We plan far in advance and crops take a long time to grow, so slowly crops like arugula, greens, radishes and turnips were coming in. Given the coolish April (way cooler than March), crops are slowing maturing, especially in the higher elevations. The new ASAP Farmers Market is a great option for farmers as smaller markets figure out their safety protocol.
My Experience Selling 6 Ft. Apart
I am so thankful that there is a market to sell at and it was weird. We are following all the CDC protocol, so all vendors and customers had masks on. I also wore gloves. I mostly recognized regulars, but some may not have recognized me. You can’t see people’s expressions with a mask on and it is hard to hear customers! There is a requirement that vendors stand 6 feet away from their tables, so when customers would ask questions that required a detailed response, they couldn’t hear me. Waving at people to show that I was being friendly seemed a good substitution for smiles, since they couldn’t really see my face. Kudos to the ASAP staff for making it run smoothly! They are doing a stellar job. The customers who came to buy were “no nonsense.” They came up to the table and grabbed what they wanted and it felt like customers were super thankful we were there.
Markets usually function as a social outlet, too, and while this was reduced, some folks did greet each other and I saw lots of my regulars, which was nice. The ASAP Farmers market is doing all payments online, AFTER folks go home. They go to the ASAP website and pay one lump sum, and the farmers also report their sales. This is an honors system, but ASAP has reported it is working well. ASAP honors what the farmers report, so if customers don’t pay, they take the loss. This is an amazing thing.
Folks Are Hungry for Local Food
One silver lining of all this difficulty is that it seems like people are super excited to grow food and to support local farms. Other producers in our networks have reported increased CSA sales, online pre-ordering and customers clamoring for produce. It’s almost as if what those of us in local food have been saying for years has finally registered with people; local food is safer and more secure and that regional food systems are better for all (healthier, and more fresh). Supporting local seems to have clicked. I am glad for that and hope that sticks after we “return” to normal, if we can. I hope the new normal includes more cooperation and collaboration, and valuing of localized economy and essential workers more than before.
Where to Buy & Sell Local Food Now
If you want to buy or sell local food in WNC, here are the active markets now in Buncombe county:
- ASAP Saturday Farmer’s Market – AB Tech Community College, Saturdays: 9 a.m.–noon
- ASAP Thursday Farmer’s Market AB Tech Community College, Thursdays: 9 a.m.–noon
- Black Mountain Tailgate Market– Tentatively opening May 2, 2020, Saturdays: 9 a.m.–noon
- Enka-Candler Tailgate Market – Opening May 7 @ AB Tech Small Business Center in Candler, Thursdays: 3:30–6:30 p.m.
- (RAD) River Arts District Market – Located at Pleb Winery in Asheville, Wednesdays: 3–6 p.m
- Weaverville Farmer’s Market– Opening April 1 @ Reems Creek Nursery, 76 Monticello Rd., Weaverville. Happening Wednesdays: 2:30–3:30 p.m. for seniors and at-risk customers. 3:30-–6 p.m. for everyone.
- North Asheville Tailgate Market, UNCA campus, opening May 2, 2020 Saturdays 8- noon.
- West Asheville Tailgate Market – Opening April 7 @ 718 Haywood Road, Tuesdays: 3:30–6:30 p.m.
In addition, the Patchwork Producers Alliance online market will be opening May 2nd for online orders from a local farm cooperative newly formed under the guidance of Sunil Patel (CRAFT member and Farm Beginnings mentor) and Vanya Wegner (Farm Beginnings student). Here is the site:
Mother Earth Foods is currently not accepting new clients, but you can get on the waiting list.
Author: Nicole DelCogliano
Nicole DelCogliano is Farmer Program Coordinator at OGS. She teaches the year long Farm Beginnings program to new and beginning farmers. She also farms in Yancey County with her husband, at Green Toe Ground farm.