PITTSBORO, N.C. — COVID-19 has caused massive economic disruptions for small and medium-sized farms in the Carolinas.
The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) surveyed farms in North and South Carolina to quantify those impacts this spring. Results show that small and mid-scale farms selling in local food markets are suffering greatly.
Weekly sales dropped for three-quarters of local farms in the Carolinas as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including one third that lost more than $1,000 per week. These sales declines are consistent across almost all local food marketing channels, sizes of farms, and types of crops and products. About 48% of the farms that responded have annual revenues between $25,000 and $250,000, and another 41% have sales of less than $25,000 per year, so consistent weekly losses at this scale are devastating to these businesses. Many farmers said they will be out of business if COVID-19’s effects last through the summer.
Restaurants and agritourism were two of the top five sales channels for local farms, both of which were cut off by social distancing measures: 87% of farms with restaurant customers had declines in restaurant sales, and 79% of farms with agritourism saw that income drop. Farmers markets have been closed, delayed, and otherwise altered to implement social distancing, leading to drops in farmers market sales for 68% of farmers market vendors.
“The small farms that are the backbone for local food networks are hurting and need support,” says CFSA Executive Director, Roland McReynolds. “Existing federal COVID-19 relief programs have failed to address the unique needs of these local farms.”
Relief payments to farmers under the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program pay farmers pennies per pound of unsold crops, which doesn’t cover small farms’ costs to produce them.
“Large numbers of small and mid-scale local farms will go out of business if any next round of COVID-19 relief for agriculture does not include targeted support for the local food sector,” says McReynolds.
About Carolina Farm Stewardship Association The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association is on a mission to bring local, organic food to your table from a farmer who shares your values. After 40 years, we continue to have a vision of a vibrant, sustainable food system that is good for consumers, farmers, and the land.
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–Ashley See, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association