When this whole COVID-19 thing first went down, we racked our brains trying to come up with ways we could help. We are part of the local farmers market here in New Smyrna Beach, and like many public events, the city decided to shut it down to discourage crowds. The closure of the markets didn't hurt us very much. We have quite the online business, (thank you for being here!), and we can survive through e-commerce and wholesale. However, it became quickly apparent that many vendors were already in dire straits. Farmers and makers of all kinds had no outlets to sell their goods to earn a living. Some of the vendors were just not tech-savvy and didn't have a website. Others, like most farmers, have products with an extremely short shelf life. The only way they can sell produce is direct to the physical customer, whether that is through a grocery store, produce stand, or farmers market. At the same time the markets closed, grocery stores were facing another problem. Customers were mobbing the shelves, buying truckloads of toilet paper, (why?), and basically any other commodity that wasn't bolted down. At a time when the government told people to practice "social distancing," grocery stores were filled to the brim with panicked customers. The situation was not safe or sustainable.
With the farmers on the rails and grocery stores overrun, we had an epiphany, and the Drive-Thru Farmers Market was born! A local produce market called Ingrid's Produce had closed its doors for the crisis, and the owner allowed us use of the store and, critically, the walk-in cooler. Beautiful organic produce was supplied by Frog Song Organics, and more produce was later brought in from The Barefoot Farmer. We got the market on its feet, and the effort attracted a lot of press. Customers came from as far away as Orlando to get their groceries. The concept was simple: if people don't want to duke it out in the grocery stores, and want to avoid crowds, they can drive their car through the market and get what they need. Farmers and vendors from the regular market put up their goods on consignment, and were able to make a little money where they otherwise could not. After the market got going, we turned over its management to The Barefoot Farmer, and it's about to enter its second week of operation. It's clear to us after week one that this provides an important service to the community and to our local food producers!
If you're hankering for fresh produce and local food, come check out the Drive-thru Farmers Market at 132 W. Park Avenue in Edgewater, Florida. It's open Monday through Friday from 8-12. Cash and credit cards are accepted. The market will continue operations until the regular NSB Farmers Market is reopened, and who knows, maybe after?
In the last two weeks, drive-thru farmers markets have popped up all over the USA. Seems like everyone had the same idea! As they say, necessity is the mother of all invention.
Here's some press the market received: