We are all getting a taste for what it might feel like to inhabit a science fiction novel. Or, as one meme said, maybe this is what life would look like it if was written by a 4th grader: “There was this virus, and the whole world ran out of toilet paper. Yeah, and there was no school for like a month!!”
No matter how this crisis has impacted your life, there is a fundamental truth that many people are just learning, remembering, or now recommitting to: Local food production = local food sovereignty. When the grocery store shelves were empty of meat, many farmers still had freezers full, and found creative ways to get that meat into customers’ hands. Global corporations like Walmart may have cheap prices, but they don’t have any connection to local communities and no motivation to help in times of need. And their supply chains are often so complicated that global disruptions cause them to break down.
Local farmers, distillers, restaurants and other food businesses have displayed remarkable creativity, nimbleness, and desire to take care of their neighbors. Many have pivoted their business models within just a few days, establishing online stores, take-out or curbside pick-up, or completely re-configuring their manufacturing to make new products. In the process, they’re serving immediate needs in their communities and keeping their staff employed.
Here in Ithaca, Luna Street Food restaurant did a quick make-over and became an online food hub, taking bulk orders for food to help Ithacans fill their pantries, help suppliers distribute food that would have gone to restaurants, and keep their employees busy. Melissa Madden, a farmer-turned-urban-core-manager, has started a Food Hub at Press Bay Alley, to provide a safe, contactless pickup location for customers ordering online from local farms. Larger food hubs, like the Headwater Food Hub in Rochester, which aggregates products from local suppliers and normally sells primarily to restaurants and institutions, has shifted to serving individual customers, helping them get nourishing fresh products from local farms. Craft distilleries around the country, like Beak and Skiff in Lafayette, NY, are turning almost overnight into production facilities for hand sanitizer, and some are distributing it for free in an effort to keep people healthy.
Local food and farm businesses need you in order to stay alive, and you need them too!
As these local businesses adapt quickly to the blur of recent changes, it’s been heartening to see how many people are turning to their local farms to buy food during this crisis. In a few more months when this pandemic has passed and life resumes something closer to normal, please don’t forget these locally-owned businesses that grow food for your community. Gov. Cuomo has designated them “essential businesses,” a title which shouldn’t fade with this crisis.
We have no way to know what the next major disruption will be to Life as Usual, but there will surely be more. If the grocery store shelves go empty again, those farms will have your back, but you’ve got to have theirs, supporting them even when there’s not a crisis. We are all on this train together; if we take care of each other, the ride will be a lot more pleasant for everyone.