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How to Help Farms in the COVID-19 Crisis - Open Letter

An open letter to the people of Boulder County:

I am a local farmer who sits on the board of the Flatirons chapter of the National Young Farmers Coalition. I write to highlight the strains our local farms face during the COVID-19 crisis.

As farmers, our main concern is always health: of those who eat our food, of our staff, our land, and our animals. When you look for healthy foods to stock during the COVID-19 crisis, I ask you to consider the intrinsic health of local food. Your local food passes through fewer hands, travels fewer miles, and goes through less processing than food from afar. The food we grow and raise for you, full of the water, air, and soil of this place where we live, is rich in nutrients that are appropriate to your environment and integral to your health.

To comply with an emergency order from the governor, the Boulder County Farmers Markets have announced a 30-day delay to market season. Just as preventive measures have caused economic hardship for people everywhere, especially small businesses, the delay will have profound effects on your local farmers. We have been working to meet the April market opening date since last year, preparing fields, sowing seeds, hiring workers, caring for animals, planning crops, and analyzing sales. We need to bring the fruits of this labor to you, and you need the essential health of our food.

We rely on farm share sales and early farmers markets to recoup the investments we have made over the winter. The loss of 4 farmers market days and the closure of restaurants we sold to may force us all to watch beautiful food rot in the field. We cannot afford to harvest if there is nowhere to sell. I impress upon you that there is no food shortage; fresh produce is available now. We can all rely on the rich food sources of Boulder County, rather than on distant, unstable markets. Let us eat and act in solidarity, so that ALL community members, especially low-income and otherwise at-risk families who rely on the farmers market, can benefit from farmers’ labor.

We are doing our best to make online ordering available to you. It will take time, considerable effort, and collaboration from customers to build reliable online-ordering and delivery systems. Please support us as we rapidly change our models to bring you healthy local food within the constraints of COVID-19 measures.

We know we are only a few among all those who are struggling, but I ask you to pay attention to the farmers who contribute to the health of Boulder County. Brian Coppom of Boulder County Farmers Markets writes: “…food at the markets is grown and made by people you know and trust. [Their] connection to you strengthens their resolve to act in service to the community”. The food we offer is not only rich in nutrients, it is rich in the time, love, and thought we pour into everything we grow and prepare for you. In short, it is healthy.

Can we help our farms weather this storm? A few concrete steps:

  1. Join local farms’ mailing lists to learn what they offer.

  2. Buy a farm share. Guarantee your family nutrient-dense local produce while sharing the farm’s financial burden.

  3. Patronize farm stands. Farmers are working with regulatory agencies to ensure that farm stands are safe. If your farm doesn’t have a farm stand, ask to order ahead and pick up.

  4. Pick up food from farm stands or CSAs for friends and neighbors. Create posts on Facebook or Nextdoor to coordinate this service.

  5. Push local grocery stores to stock local produce.

  6. Ask state and local officials to keep farmers markets open, and support the Boulder County Farmers Markets. Contact your representatives. Petition them to exempt farmers markets from closures.

Those with specific skills can be vital:

  1. Childcare: farmers must still work outside, even while children are out of school.

  2. Web development: help farms bring offerings online.

  3. Transportation: help farms offer home delivery. Collaborate among farms to consolidate delivery routes.

  4. Zero-interest loans: tide farms over; keep staff employed and farms in business.

  5. Stock local food: if you can influence what’s in groceries, shift to local produce if possible.

Please visit the Flatirons Young Farmers Coalition’s online directory and map of Boulder County farms. Let farmers know you care, and that you are committed to buying from them. Help bring back certainty and stability.

Yours with all my heart,

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