The COVID-19 pandemic forever changed how businesses are conducted across the country. Just as much as any other industry, agriculture suffered from the pandemic’s impact.
As restaurants closed their doors and schools’ closures kept children at home, farmers lost a significant portion of their clientele. A year later, they have had to adjust to stay afloat.
They will have to continue to diversify their operations moving forward, believes Robert Guenther, Senior Vice President, Public Policy, United Fresh Produce Association.
“You need to be looking at, not just being focused on food service, not being focused on just a few commodities, you need to make sure you’re looking at a wide range of your customers’ needs,” Guenther said. “That could be food service, that could be retail, that could be grab and go. You see a lot of the food service side that, maybe you never thought about this, they’re doing more of the boxed pick up for customers. A lot of that was probably in the mindset or business model to think about five to 10 years from now. But I think you’re seeing that accelerated in terms of adapting to this model moving forward.”
Growers have had to think of alternate ways to market their produce during the COVID pandemic. Boxed produce was a success for some growers looking to offload some of their excess produce. Stories of long lines of cars waiting for their produce were not uncommon.
For some producers, thinking outside the box was the only way they survived this pandemic. But hopefully it has provided them ideas on how to pivot their farming operation if they need to do so again.
“I still think there’s lessons to be learned. We’re still in this pandemic,” Guenther said. “Schools are just starting to open back up. So we’re starting to see a movement back to some type of normalcy. Hopefully, that will continue the remainder of this year and into 2022.”