Industries across the world are being disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. In the U.S., one sector facing significant uncertainty is agriculture. In Idaho, family farms have had to adapt to a constantly changing set of dynamics, creating challenges and opportunites in the local food system.
Normally, spring vegetables would be all the rage right now at bustling farmer’s markets and local restaurants. But according to Ariel Agenbroad with the University of Idaho, many of the places where farmers sell their crops have shrunk, have delayed opening, or are still closed altogether.
So instead, family farms are looking at things like subscription box services where the food goes directly to consumers.
"Some of them had some relationships with, say, a retail grocery store or a co-op," says Agenbroad. "That could still be a very strong market outlet for them, but if their farmer’s market is still up in the air, then they’ve got to figure out how to sell that product that would’ve been meant for the market.”
Others have even shifted to planting crops they can harvest in the summer or fall to recoup any hit they might’ve taken so far.
And it's not just the farm owners who have been affected. Farm workers and food processors, many of them Latino and some who don't have documentation, have been hard hit by COVID-19. With outbreaks at several food processing facilities sickening workers in Idaho, we check in with the Idaho Statesman reporter Nicole Foy and Samantha Guerrero of the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils about this vulnerable population that's key to our agricultural economy.
As COVID-19 cases spread through the U.S. and Idaho, we’re committed to keeping you updated and informed. You can get updated info on cases, closures and how to stay healthy at any time on our Coronavirus news blog.
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