Michigan Coronavirus: U.P. farmer speaks on gardening impact during pandemic

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CHATHAM, Mich. (WJMN) – Rock River Farm in Chatham is mostly known for selling flowers.

“That isn’t considered essential obviously so we’re kind of shifting our production away from flowers and back towards vegetables for this season,” said Rowan Bunce, Owner, Rock River Farm.

Bunce says there’s been some confusion as to how people can start planting for the season.

“You can still order seeds from big box stores,” said Bunce. “You just have to do it online and then they’ll bring it out to the car. And that just keeps the workers safe. We are still working with the Marquette Farmer’s Market and the Downtown Development Authority to figure out how plant sales are going to go in the spring for market sales.”

Rock River Farm is communicating with other farms in the U.P. on how they’re handling the situation.

“We all get together on a big Zoom meeting and we’ve been trying to figure out how we’re going to all kind of ramp up our own individual production but also safely distribute the food to people,” said Bunce. “One of the best models and the safest models for people to get there food is a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture where basically it’s a subscription program to the farm. So you will get a bag of food each week and it just happens to be whatever is coming in from the farm that week. And then we’re organizing a safe delivery and drop-off system right now so the farmers stay safe and the people who come and pick up can stay safe.”

With Governor Whitmer’s stay home order is in effect until April 30th, Bunce says the impact now isn’t as big in the U.P. compared to other areas.

“For farmers in the U.P. this couldn’t have come at a better time,”said Bunce. “No one’s really started anything yet. We’re all just still in that kind of ramping up phase. Farmers who have hoop houses do have produce going. That produce is still being sold to outlets like the Marquette Food Co-op and grocery stores and things like that. But once as the season really gets going in earnest and we all have a bunch of produce I think collectively one of our biggest outlets is the farmers market and just direct sales to people. One of the options is a virtual market instead of a physical market, but we’re all hoping for a physical market obviously.”

For now, these farmers are taking it day-by-day as they await to go back to normal when it’s safe to do so.

Rock River Farm has a website and Facebook page to keep people up to date on their services during this pandemic.

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