On Friday, April 17, U.S. President Donald Trump announced a $19 billion aid package for farmers affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic. However, local farmers may be more worried about the cooler weather than the ill effects of COVID-19.
Danny Morgan, proprietor of Morgan Farms in Boaz, had been selling produce at the Boaz Farmers Market six days a week since March 16, but most of the items were not home grown due to a lack of consistent warmer weather. Still, she said business at the farmer’s market is doing good.
“We’re about two weeks behind because of the weather, but as far as the virus — more people said they’d rather come out here and see me than go to the grocery store,” Morgan said.
She said she plans to start selling her home-grown squash within the next few weeks if the weather permits. She also grows tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, green beans, corn and watermelon and has 15-20 acres planted in preparation for spring and summer.
“If this weather backs up some and gets some heat — we need heat,” she said of selling her home-grown vegetables.
Tricia Blanks, co-owner of 3 Blanks Farm in Guntersville, said she too has been struggling to grow her crops with the weather inconsistencies. She said she grows a wide variety of vegetables on her 14-acre farm, but most are weeks behind where they should be in the growing process.
“I’m still afloat … It’s mostly been the weather that has bothered me,” Blanks said. “It would be warm in the 80s, and then it would drop down to freezing down here where I am. The weather has really played havoc on me this year … stuff not growing like it should. I should already have cabbages and stuff like that ready to go to be sold and I don’t.”
Blanks has been selling her produce at the Guntersville Farmers market on Saturdays. She said attendance by vendors and patrons has been sporadic.
“[Attendance] is sort of up and down, I guess you could say,” she said. “It’s not a steady flow.”
She has also been selling at farmers markets in Huntsville, one of which has converted to a drive-thru market by pre-order only. The extra work involved with getting produce ready for the drive-thru has been taxing, Blanks said.
“I’ve got to get everything bagged up, tagged and ready to go whenever people come through,” she said. “I don’t know how well that’s going to work because people are having to order through either calling me or texting me or sending in an email. That, to me, is ridiculous ... It’s not an inside market; it’s an open market. It’s hard on us as farmers … It’s already a hassle for me.”
She said she would have a better idea of where her sales stand compared to last year after the next few farmers markets.
“I know my sales aren’t going to be nowhere close to where they have been,” she said.