Food and Farm News March 25



Farmers markets cope with COVID-19 response

Reaction to the novel coronavirus has led some local governments and property owners to suspend operation of farmers markets. Market managers say they should be considered an essential public service, similar to grocery stores. Though some farmers markets have been temporarily closed, others remain open and have instituted additional measures to prevent close contact among customers and vendors.  

Restaurant reductions affect farmers

Temporary closures or reduced occupancy by restaurants, work-site cafeterias and other outlets have ripple effects to the farmers and companies that sell fruits, vegetables and meats to such food-service businesses. Food wholesalers say they're working to find alternative customers for farm products. Though sales at restaurants and institutional clients have declined, outlets that offer drive-through, pickup or delivery service have seen their business increase.

Flight cancellations complicate food shipments

Travel restrictions intended to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus have led to canceled flights, reducing options for shipping California-grown foods to foreign customers. Shipments carried on passenger planes complement shipments via ocean and air freight. With passenger flights reduced, perishable cargo such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, meats and dairy products will compete for space on aircraft with other commodities and express shipments.

March storms help pastures and snowpack, a little

Pasture grasses around California have turned brown due to dry weather for much of the winter. Ranchers say mid-March rains helped. But grass on many rangelands has matured to a point that it won't produce as much vegetation, even after the rains. In the Sierra, weekend storms boosted the snowpack--but to only 46% of average statewide, compared to 38% before the storms.