LANSING, Mich. — It's hard to forget the early days of COVID when grocery store shelves were empty things have leveled off considerably but as Chris Conte shows us farmers are making a 'rebound' as more Americans are suddenly looking to get their food directly from the source.
"I like the solitude." Sometimes like a fine wine, fermenting over time the cheese at Robinson Dairy Farms sits, sometimes for years, but Pam Robinson knows exactly when it's time for her wheels of cheese to make their debut.
There's a certain precision to what she does. "It's almost an art, it’s mesmerizing."
This farm has been in the Robinson family for more than a century. Pam and her husband Raymond are fourth generation farmers, but when COVID hit, the restaurants that would typically buy their cheese, stopped calling.
"Our distributor has not ordered a wheel since March and it’s now September, suddenly though, the Robinson's started noticing something. Their online sales were sky rocketting "we doubled our online sales with COVID, it was amazing."
What farmers are learning is that COVID has given Americans a greater sense of awareness about where their food comes from and there's something else people aren’t going out, they want things delivered to their door.
There’s a strong appetite across the country right now of people look for fresh, local food. but finding those farms and connecting to them isn’t always easy.
"A lot of us are divorced from our food source", that's where David Pham and Jason Curescu come in. Two guys in their 30's who started the website farmsthataredelivering.com.
They've spent months creating a free online database where people can search for farms in their area that deliver. "By going back to our food source that’s how we can really know what’s in our food."
The idea has taken off, not just with Americans ordering food but with the farmers themselves. A lot of the farmers we talk to this is the part of the job they don’t like.
"It helps people find us, we’re pretty busy people so taking the time for marketing it challenging."
It's the kind of boost farms could use now more than ever. In a recent survey 73% of farmers said COVID-19 affected their operations in some way and 34% of dairy farmers, said the pandemic is forcing them to speed up plans to leave farming altogether, which does include the Robinson's who have decided it's time to sell the family farm.
"It’s hard to let it go but it’s time, but for now, they still have plenty of cheese that's ready to be packaged and shipped and if COVID has taught them anything, it's how grateful people are that they can get food directly, from the farm. "I think people feel better knowing where their food comes from."
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