(April 10, 2020) Many businesses have closed to the public because of the coronavirus; however, a number of local farms and grocery stores remain open to provide residents with home grown and organic options.
As a result of Gov. Larry Hogan’s directive, farmers markets can remain open for business, so small- to medium-sized farms are able to continue production and help support the local economy.
The Saturday market in White Horse Park in Ocean Pines, for instance, is considered ideal as it takes place outdoors with plenty of opportunities for social distancing, which is important for Delaware-based businesses like Stag Run Farm, since Gov. John Carney has closed the state’s farmers’ markets.
“It’s upsetting … Delaware Gov. John Carney has not let the farmers markets open yet, which is not good for the public, I believe, … whereas Gov. Hogan, who recognizes how important farmers markets are, has told us all we need to stay open,” owner Lenore Brady said. “It’s better to go outside than to a supermarket. We feed the country, whether you’re a small-, mid- or large-scale farm, we feed the country with a number of different ways to keep the farms sustainable.”
Stag Run is the third-largest orchard farm in Delaware and grows everything from apples, to asparagus, potatoes, lettuce and even cultivates its own honey. Without retail options like farmers markets, Brady would face the difficult choice of closing her farm after 20 years.
“I have wholesale businesses which I sell to, but it’s very important for my mid-size farm to sell retail, so my retail business and farming is based on the farmers market so I can keep it sustainable and going for years to come,” Brady said. “Thank you to our customers for your patronage … we definitely need you to keep coming out and supporting us.”
David Bean, a mid-size farm owner who co-manages the Ocean Pines market with Brady, agrees.
“Right now, the food supply chain is why farmers markets are remaining open in Maryland,” Bean said. “The governor wants the additional food to feed into the system and keep people fed. This is an open-air environment so you’re not confined. The ultraviolet light is considered good for you in this situation and we’re out in the sunlight.”
According to Bean, there is already signs of success, as the foot traffic in late March was equivalent to that seen in late April or early May.
“It’s important now more than ever to support small farms, businesses and entrepreneurs,” he said. “The bigger guys are going to survive. The little guys need the support of the community now.”
The Ocean Pines market takes place in White Horse Park on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Only a few miles away, Bluebird Farms on 11207 Racetrack Rd., is offering curbside groceries with produce and other goods provided by six local vendors.
Owner Nancie Corbett knew she wanted to be able to help, especially when it comes to the safety of some of the older residents in the area.
“I think people feel in this environment the need to be around less people so there is less chance of spreading the virus,” she said. “I just think people are really rethinking their health right now because they’re trying to fight the virus.”
Corbett, who owns a nursery and has been offering various baked goods from local vendors, is also including a variety of products like eggs, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and other produce.
She is only accepting orders and payment over the phone and leaves the supplies on her property’s porch upon the designated time of pickup.
Corbett credits the idea of the pickup service to her parents, who live in Ocean Pines.
“When I came up with the idea, it was because I was thinking there’s so many people in the Pines like my parents,” she said. “I just thought to myself, ‘If I was a spreader and didn’t know it and I was just opening up my doors, it would be unsafe. It takes a while for some people to understand that even though you don’t feel sick, you could still be endangering other people.”
Corbett takes orders daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and posts what is available for pickup on her Facebook page around 8 a.m. each day. Call Bluebird Farm at 410-208-4475 or check its Facebook page for available items.
In Ocean City, Real Raw Organics, located on 34th Street, has been offering groceries to the public as well.
“Supporting small business is always important because you are putting money directly back into your community’s economy and supporting the local job market,” Owner Logan Willey said. “With everything going on, all of us who own small businesses are really feeling the financial hit.
“Those of us who own businesses in Ocean City are used to having to save our money from summer to get us through winter,” she continued. “However, we are not prepared to lose all staff, have to throw away product and basically make 10 percent of what we usually make for months. If you want your favorite little shops to be open this summer please spend money at small businesses.”
The store offers everything from fresh produce to dairy, to toilet paper and cleaning products.
The response has been overwhelming, Willey said.
“We struggled with the decision to close completely or remain open for pickups, special orders and to-go food,” she said. “I’m so glad we did. We found out that some people really depend on the kombucha to keep their immune system up and their digestion regular, so we are so happy we are able to still continue to produce it.”
Real Raw Organics is open Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., however, customers can place grocery orders any day.
“We just need 24 hours’ notice to have an order ready if it includes produce or dairy because we are not usually a grocery store stocked with these items,” Willey said. “You may pick up through our outdoor pickup window on our patio. We have closed the front of the store so please only use the pickup window.
“Calling in your orders help tremendously because it is a very small staff and we are limiting it to one to two people only working at a time,” she continued. “If you prefer curbside, then call the store phone when you get here and we will run it out to your car with no contact sale.”
To place an order, visit realraworganics.com or text, call 443-783-7255 or 443-783-5374, or through Instagram direct message.
A little further away from the resort, OC Organics in West Ocean City is also offering a pickup service, which helps to support local farmers with their organic selection.
“We support local farmers when and where we can,” Employee Heather Layton said. “We get fresh produce every Monday and Wednesday. There are several area farms that depending on the season, we do get local produce from them as well.”
Everything in the store is, as the name would suggest, organically grown and ranges from spices to ice cream, grains, soaps, hair products, toothpaste, toothbrushes, vitamins and other supplies.
Customers can only order over the phone, through email or through the store’s Facebook page and pick up their purchases during a designated time slot.
The reception has been very positive, Layton said, especially since the store has continually needed to restock. “We’re trying our best to stay stocked and we are filling orders all day, every day,” she said. “The shelves are pretty stocked. We get two grocery truck deliveries a week and we get two produce deliveries a week.”
The store hours have been changed to 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Delivery to West Ocean City, Berlin and Ocean Pines residents is available.
For more information, call 410-213-9818 or check the store’s Facebook page for available supplies and updates.
Further south in the county, Pocomoke City-based Chesapeake Bay Farms is continuing to offer its delivery service, albeit with some changes.
Owners Daniel and Laura Holland, who are third generation farmers on the over 70-year-old farm, decided to bring back the milk delivery system earlier this February, which has made it an ideal location to order groceries instead of traveling to a grocery store.
“By doing the home delivery, we can really limit the amount of contamination or possible contamination that it could possibly come in contact with,” Laura said. “We make, pack and deliver it. It’s not going through the whole normal supply chain, where it’s going on different trucks to different shippers and different warehouses. A very limited amount of people are coming in contact with the product before it actually reaches your doorstep.”
All of the products made at Chesapeake Bay Farms are FDA certified. Some of the products available for delivery besides milk are cheeses, butter, ice cream, beef, pork, jellies, jams, oysters, crab meat, artisanal breads, honey and, upon receiving FDA approval, yogurt.
All products are created at the farm in Pocomoke City, with the exception of the breads, which come from a local baker.
The main difference between the delivery service prior to the coronavirus is the farm will no longer be delivering the supplies in reusable hot/cold coolers and are currently offered in disposable bags.
“There’s a pandemic, so that’s not necessarily the safest thing to do,” Laura said. “Because otherwise, you get them back and you don’t know what you’re getting exactly.”
Delivery options range from once a week, every other week, once a month or at specified dates. Currently, the farm delivers to Pocomoke City, Snow Hill, Fruitland, Salisbury, Willards, Berlin and Ocean Pines, though they do expect to expand into other locations and add even more products available for delivery later on.
There is also an option for customers to pick up their orders at the farm’s Berlin location, 8905 Logtown Rd.
“We’re just really appreciative for the support that we have got from local people supporting locals,” Laura said.
To order or see what is available for delivery, visit www.supportlocalcows.com or call headquarters Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 443-373-8487 or the Berlin store at 410-629-1997.