BELLEVILLE, Ill. (KMOV.com) - At Eckert’s Farm in Belleville, the strawberry plants are almost ready. Pick-your-own season should begin May 1, but owner Chris Eckert said he’s not sure that will happen this year.
"I think it would be a little irresponsible to get everyone out on the farm at this point and time,” said Eckert.
They are already preparing to harvest their asparagus, and the strawberry harvest is huge. Without the help of families picking the berries, they are working to figure out how to find the staff to harvest the crop and sell the berries wholesale. It’s one of the many ways farmers are having to adapt during the coronavirus crisis.
“Mother nature does not recognize coronavirus, she just marches on, so our peach trees are starting to open up, blossoms this weekend I would expect,” said Eckert.
Down the street at Belleville Farmer's Market, a permanent stand for produce, has been surprisingly busy the owner said.
“Business for us has been really good for the last couple weeks, I’m not sure if it’s because they like coming here where there’s not the big crowds, or they’ve had a hard time finding stuff in the big stores,” said owner Dan Schwendeman.
But many seasonal farmer's markets, like the popular Tower Grove Farmer's Market, have uncertain futures. Many have canceled their winter markets. Farmers in the St. Louis area often rely on selling at markets and at restaurants, many of which have closed due to the orders from local governments.
“There’s been a scrambling to find different ways to get their product to market,” explained Jenn DeRose with Known and Grown STL.
Known and Grown STL is a program that promotes and supports dozens of farms in Missouri and Illinois. They are helping farmers navigate a new normal.
At Earth Dance Organic Farm in Ferguson, they are doing a drive-thru pay what you can market.
Founding Director Molly Rockamann said they are working on a way to share the produce they keep harvesting while also helping those who are hurting due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Tower Grove Farmer’s Market is offering delivery as a way to help their farmers sell produce. Sign up for information here.
DeRose said other good options are signing up for a CSA, community support agriculture. Known and Grown STL has put together a list of farms offering up options to access their food. There is also a fundraising effort to support small local farmers.