The COVID-19 crisis is teaching us how valuable a local food supply really is. It goes beyond supporting a local economy, which sometimes doesn’t seem to directly impact our families or day-to-day lives. Now we’re learning that a local food supply is more than a vague concept: It’s a necessity, and we should make it a permanent part of our food shopping choices as a hedge against uncertainty.
The corporate food supply chain for fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy isn’t likely to fare well during these pandemic times (Source). The corporate workforce to grow, harvest, or deliver fresh foods is diminishing with social distancing protocols, and the fresh foods needed to supply traditional grocery stores that do not buy from local food producers is diminishing. For instance, even though there is a demand for dairy products and they are being rationed or prices are increasing in many locations, dairy companies like Land-O-Lakes are instructing their suppliers to dump milk while Wisconsin-based Foremost Farms USA have suggested that their members cull their herds. The problem? There are fewer people available to deliver the food (Source). There is also a loss of sales to institutions that buy in bulk such as restaurants, schools, corporate cafeterias, and more.
Do you know who’s there for you, ready to pick up the slack, and who is likely lowering their prices to support their local communities? New Mexico’s growers. Michael Venticinque, value chain coordinator at the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association is in daily contact with the state’s farmers. He says, “I’ve heard that the farmers are trying to help out their communities with a little less of a margin while still trying to make money and move their product.”
You heard that right…New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers are willing to take a financial hit so your families have access to fresh food. More good news is that New Mexico has deemed farmers’ markets Essential Businesses. This means that during pandemic protocols, you can rely on farmers’ markets to supply you and your family with fresh, locally grown food that has been touched by as few hands as possible.
Farmers’ markets also are safe places to shop! Consider these safety precautions:
- Vendors are wearing gloves and masks
- Hand washing stations are available
- Vendors are spaced apart
- There’s a lack of crowds
- Most foods are pre-bagged or packaged
- Many vendors’ booths are outdoors with the sun and fresh air
You can find a farmers’ market or other local food outlet such as farm stands and CSAs near you at FarmersMarketsNM.org. It’s a good idea to contact each outlet directly to see when they open as things can change on a daily basis.
Story: Christina Keibler, NMFMA
Photos: Elizabeth Evans, NMFMA