COCKEYSVILLE, Md. — For people looking for additional ways to buy local foods, Future Harvest, Maryland Farmers Market Association (MDFMA), Delmarva Grown, and Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) teamed up to create a directory of local food resources for direct sales: Find-A-Farmer or Market.
“There has never been a moment in recent history that drives this home more: The Chesapeake region must be able to feed itself. Small- and mid- sized farms are here and ready to fill the big gaps left by a failing global food chain,” said Dena Leibman, Future Harvest Executive Director.
Farmers, farmers market managers, butchers, and local food retail outlets in Maryland, DC, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia are encouraged to read and follow the Safety Protocols for Food Distribution and Purchases During COVID-19 and fill out the online form to get listed in the “Find-A-Farmer or Market” directory, an interactive online map where consumers can easily locate and purchase locally produced food safely and close to home. Producers can list available products and contact information, link to their online ordering system, explain additional food safety precautions they are taking in light of COVID-19, share their growing practices, and list payment types accepted.
Future Harvest and MDFMA launched the idea on March 16th and the map went live on March 22, with more than 500 listings. The team is expecting to see that number expand in the coming weeks.
Future Harvest and Amy Crone, Project Manager for MarketLink, former MDFMA Executive Director, and Future Harvest board member, aggregated data from multiple organizations to populate the map and designed a user-friendly interface that can be integrated into multiple websites and shared widely.
“In light of the potentially devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our local agricultural economy, I wanted to help link farmers and consumers so that they can connect and continue to purchase local good food,” said Crone . “This is a crisis during which our communities can depend on our local food system and the hard-working farmers who grow food for our tables.”
Consumers can use the map to locate direct-to-consumer options geographically close to them and then connect directly to an online ordering page or call the establishment.
“People are leaving their homes only to find large chain store shelves empty,” said Future Harvest’s Dena Leibman, “Local grocers and farmers have plenty in stock, a stark example of how important our farmers and locally produced food is for our regional security.”
“Find-A- Farmer or Market” is one of many ongoing efforts led by local agricultural organizations and other advocates to ensure that governments consider and designate farms and farmers markets as “essential businesses,” just like grocery stores. This would allow them to remain open, productive, and adjust to the changing reality of how food will move from producer to consumer in the coming months.
On Wednesday, March 25th, from 12:00 – 1:30 pm, Future Harvest will host a Zoom call in which farmers Emma Jagoz of Moon Valley Farm, Mike Protas of One Acre Farm, Beckie Gurley of Calvert’s Gift Farm, food safety expert Stuart Vermaak of Virginia Tech Extension, and more will discuss how they and other farms can pivot their daily operations and sales models to meet and exceed social distancing mandates to provide consumers safe, fresh food.
–Deb Dramby, Future Harvest