Local farms, organization encourage buying from businesses here during coronavirus outbreak

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 20, 2020

By Natalie Anderson

SALISBURY — As stores and supermarkets continue work to keep up panic buying during the COVID-19 outbreak, farms and organizations are encouraging people to look local.

Patterson Farm Market & Tours, located at 10390 Caldwell Road in Mount Ulla, opened Tuesday to provide stock initially intended for spring tours to serve the public with groceries. In a Facebook post, Patterson Farms also encouraged shopping local by purchasing its products online.

The farm opened its market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, however, was the first day the farm extended its hours to 5 p.m.

Doug Patterson said it seems that the customers, who are mostly from that area, want to get out of the house while still avoiding large crowds. This and the warmer weather has prompted Patterson Farms to open earlier than it intended to this season. Starting tomorrow, the market will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, he said.

He added that the farm is seeing a “huge increase” in orders to supermarkets. For example, Patterson Farms has run a program since 2006 to serve local grocery stores with its tomatoes, even in the off-season.

But visiting the farm’s market serves as something locals can do to support the economy and still feel safe, he said. Plus, there are some products that the farm offers and grocery stores don’t.

Meanwhile, Bread Riot, a group that works with local farmers and producers to provide food to customers, plans to donate $2,000 to purchase crops from farmers and donate them to local food banks and pantries. It’s also raising money from the community to help match the donation. All donations made to Bread Riot over the next 30 days will go to this effort. Donations can be made via PayPal at info@breadriot.org, via the donate button on their Facebook page or via physical check sent to P.O. Box 296, Salisbury, NC, 28145.

Carol Schmitz-Corken, who co-founded Bread Riot with Dottie Hoy, said the Bread Riot board met on Monday night because she was worried about local farmers during this time. That the concern was prompted after speaking with Spring Lake Family Farms manager Jeremy Allen, who informed her that its distribution center canceled an order for 1,000 heads of lettuce recently. She then bought 500 heads of lettuce from Allen and donated it to Rowan Helping Ministries.

“It’s wonderful that there’s somebody out there helping look out for the farmers,” Allen said.

Spring Lake Family Farms, located at 33463 Old Salisbury Road in Albemarle, has built its company around supplying products for grocery stores. Allen said the farm’s distribution center provides 80% of products to restaurants and 20% to the school system. The farm normally produces about 1,500 heads of lettuce a week, with 1,000 of those going to restaurants. But now, he worries the lettuce is being produced with nowhere for it go, which has a big effect on the farm paying its other bills.

Patterson expressed the same sentiment, noting that the hit some farmers are taking may be too large to make up with market sales.

Allen encouraged people who go to the grocery stores to look to the farmers during this time, too, and to buy local and shop local.

Food Lion spokesperson Matt Harakal said the company’s warehouse is still receiving deliveries each day but the products are being delivered more quickly to the store locations. Thus, the only change is that the frequency of products is “ramped up right now,” and the turn-around time for product delivery is faster.

“We know our customers are counting on us right now,” Harakal said.

Bleach, hand sanitizer, household cleaning supplies and paper products are most limited in stores right now, Harakal said. He added that the availability of these items is impacted nationally.

Harakal said Food Lion is experiencing a strain on some food supplies, including canned vegetables and canned fruit.

In an emailed statement, a Dollar General spokesperson said, “We (are) actively working with our vendor community to order additional supplies and receive them at our distribution centers and stores. We greatly appreciate our customers’ ongoing patience as we work to best meet their needs.”

ALDI declined an interview when Salisbury Post reached out for comment on restocking its stores.

“Now more than ever, our service to the community is critical. ALDI is focusing all of our efforts on ensuring essential food and household goods are available, so we cannot accommodate interviews at this time,” the grocery store chain stated in an email.

In a statement on its website, ALDI CEO Jason Hart stated, “In the midst of increased demand and challenging supply, we are focused on the products you are likely to want most: water, pantry staples, pre-made meals, cleaning supplies, toilet paper and more. To support as many customers as possible, you may see quantity limits placed on select items. We appreciate your patience as some of these products may be temporarily unavailable in some of our stores.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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