Seeds are sprouting, flowers are popping and yes, you can garden while social distancing. Local farm markets are there to help.
This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to the Daily Messenger: https://mpnnow.com/subscribenow.
Agriculture is an essential business, though it seems printing seed packets is not. At least that’s what Petra Page-Mann discovered when she went to package seeds with partner Matthew Goldfarb at Fruition Seeds organic farm and seed company. The solution?
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” as the proverbial phase goes.
While Fruition has plenty of seeds, “we’re running out of some packets and our printer won't be able to print until further notice,” said Page-Mann, at the farm in Naples. Nonetheless, they were able to find blank seed packets and so, they hired 19 area artists to design them.
Farm markets are creating many ways to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite a chilly start to the spring season in the Finger Lakes — and the global chill of COVID-19 — trees are budding, flowers are popping up and most farm markets are ready to serve customers one way or another.
“Spring as we know it will not happen,” said Kris Gray, co-owner of Fresh Ayr Farm Market with her husband, Jim Gray.
“We went back and forth” about whether to open, she said. With plants thriving and the garden season fast approaching — all the while, concerns growing and guidance evolving due to COVID-19 — they opted not to open the market as usual on Route 96 in Shortsville. “Within two weeks we put up a website for online orders and put in place curbside pickup,” Kris Gray said. With over 1,000 items to sell, it was quite a feat. “We are still making it up as we go,” she said. “It’s been an adventure.”
Similarly, other markets are delving into new territory.
“Customers have been wanting an online shopping option for a while now and we were forced to do it,” said Charlie May, co-owner of Mayflowers Nursery and Garden Center on Route 332 in Canandaigua. Online shopping, curbside pickup and special delivery options are now in place for Mayflowers, which opened April 4. Business is off to a brisk start, with the store open as well — so far, it’s run mainly by the May family, with Charlie and Elizabeth and their four kids who range in age from 7 to 13.
“It’s busier than I expected,” Charlie May said. They didn’t know what to expect getting off the ground this year, not knowing whether customers would be eager or hang back. Eager it is. Demand is especially high for vegetable seeds, edible plants and fruit trees, while there’s less call for landscape plantings and lawn decor, Charlie said. The uncertainty of the times has people thinking and shopping a little differently, he added.
Everyone seems to be in the same place on one thing, he observed: “They are looking for something positive to cling to.”
“It’s business as usual — not normal,” said Jake Joseph, of Joseph’s Wayside Market, which opened Friday for its 65th season in Naples. “We’ve been having seasonal openers since 1955 and it’s been really routine. This is all new.”
Joseph’s also is offering pickup and delivery services. At the market on Route 21 in the village, there’s plenty of room for social distancing and other precautions for safe shopping. Days before opening, Joseph’s began getting calls for orders and one customer in particular called in a really big order. Joseph said they were glad to fill it.
“It makes you feel good,” he said. “We want you to know we will look out for you. Make this as comfortable an experience as possible.”
At Fresh Ayr Farm Market, Kris Gray said customers are responding well to changes. “People are so appreciative of the opportunity,” she said. The online ordering and curbside pickup is “a great compromise,” she added. Still, the Grays hope to open the market to shoppers after May 15.
At Mayflowers, Charlie May said the kids would typically be in school now, super busy with friends and activities. He said it’s nice to have them around, for them to see what the business is like and help out. Unlike past springs, now the Mays have a family dinner together every night.
“I don’t mind sitting down and talking for an hour at dinner,” he said. He notices other families, too, spending more time together.
“There is a lot of silver lining,” he said.