By Clint Thompson
Agribusinesses that offer U-pick farms are not immune to the devastating impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Cassie Young and sister Allie Logan own Backyard Orchards in Eufaula, Alabama. Backyard Orchards has closed the U-pick part of its operation but continues to sell strawberries via social media, mainly Facebook. It also has a store with a commercial kitchen that normally sells fudge, ice cream, fried pies and homemade jams and jellies. But since zero customers are allowed in the store, that is another source of revenue that is non-existent right now.
“That’s what is really hurt is because none of that is going. I have field trips that come in the spring and the fall because we do pumpkins. I’m missing all of that field trip revenue,” Young said.
Young said she just hopes people in Alabama and other states will continue to support their local farmers during this unprecedented time.
“We’ve definitely taken a huge hit,” Young said. “Ice cream, other than produce, is our best seller. People would stop just for that as well. We’re definitely hurt. But if I can just keep paying the bills, keep us open, I’ll be happy.”
She said customers pay ahead of time and pick up the strawberries that are already set out on a table in front of the store. Young also has set up deliveries to customers in Eufaula and the Fort Benning and Fort Mitchell area.
Backyard Orchards operates on 50 acres of produce, which includes strawberries, peaches, blueberries, watermelons, squash, zucchinis, potatoes, onions.
But the farming operation could present another challenge once those other crops become ready for harvest.
“When my potatoes and other vegetables and other things come in, peaches, it’s going to be a nightmare. It’s already very difficult answering messages and keeping up with who’s who and where it goes. That would even be more of a challenge,” Young said.
Young said in previous years, once Backyard Orchards opened in the spring, there would easily be several hundred people on the weekend. That number would grow to more than a thousand over the course of a week during the summer. If this pandemic drags out, the longer businesses like Backyard Orchards suffer.
“It’s a difficult scary situation. I know I’m not going to come out making the same amount of money but if we can just keep our doors open so that we can have another year,” Young said.