Farmers hurting as produce sales lag during pandemic


The agricultural industry is being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, so farmers need you to eat your greens now more than ever.

Many farmers rely on restaurants and cruise ships to buy their crops, and across Southwest Florida, farmers, growers and those who work in the agriculture industry are feeling COVID-19’s punch.

“We’ve been facing pretty much daily challenges,” said Sarah Frey, CEO of Frey Farms.

“Farmers, we’re used to facing different challenges every year; no two seasons are ever alike, but I will tell you, this is a first for everyone right now.”

From cucumbers to watermelons, farmers cope with a lack of demand for fresh produce.

“The vegetable industry is reeling from the impacts; sales have plummeted. A large part of what we grow is targeted to the food service industry,” said Gene McAvoy, associate director for stakeholder relations at the University of Florida/IFAS SW Florida Research and Education Center.

While they say crops like potatoes and oranges are faring well, other produce isn’t selling like it used to.

“With a lot of people staying home and buying mostly comfort foods, products like peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, have actually slowed down incrementally,” said Chuck Weisinger, president of Weis-Buy Farms, Inc.

“The biggest challenge we have right now is getting the stores to start buying,” said John Stanford, farm manager at Frey Farms.

The Food and Drug Administration said there is currently no evidence of food or its packaging being connected to the transmission of COVID-19. However, you should always run your produce under cool water and wash your hands before and after handling it.

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