CHILTON COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - Many people have felt the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, especially farmers.
“Restaurants shut down. The restaurants we were supplying,” said Boozer Farms Owner Taylor Hatchett. “Of course, there were different issues with getting into grocery stores, and the demand on a lot of wholesales went down as those restaurants closed.”
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the decline in commodity for 2019, 2020, and 2021 production, total almost $50 billion.
Hatchett said the pandemic hit at a peak season for produce farmers.
“A lot of the outdoor farmer’s markets delayed openings right in spring,” said Hatchett. “It’s kind of hit at a horrible time as far as moving produce for farmers.”
A big way for Boozer Farms to sell their produce was through their farm stand, a stand they set up inside of UAB Hospital to provide fresh produce for employees, patients and patient families.
“We were actually inside of those hospitals on a weekly basis, almost a daily basis, at UAB and the Kirklin Clinic, with a booth set up with fresh produce,” said Hatchett. “Obviously with the pandemic that changed day one, so we lost that market.”
But, like many businesses, they adjusted.
Boozer Farms had been a part of the Community Supported Agriculture program for six years. The “share program” allows members to purchase shares into the farm and in return receive a weekly box with an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables.
“What we were really fortunate to be able to do, because we lost all of our market so fast, was we just poured into that box program,” said Hatchett. “I would say 95 percent of our produce right now is going out in boxes to the individual that’s the actual consumer, the end user.”
Hatchett said they have around 12 total pick-up locations where customers can receive their boxes.
“We have pick-up locations that are non-contact for people that are still very high risk or trying to avoid contact during this time,” said Hatchett. “They pull up, pop their back hatch, we put the produce box in and they are on their way.”
Before the pandemic, Boozer Farms said they would put together around 150 of these boxes a week. But right now they said they are putting together and shipping out up to 500 of them a week.
“Our box program has always been a very important part of our farm, it just was not our primary means of moving produce until this year,” said Hatchett. “With the pandemic and all the changes, it has really been the avenue that has absolutely kept our farm alive.”
Hatchett said the boxes include produce from neighboring farms that have also been impacted by the pandemic.
If you are interested in receiving a weekly regional box you can go to the farm’s website.