UT Extension Identifies Resources for Direct Farm Marketers During COVID-19 Outbreak

CSAs, Agritourism Operators, Others Changing Their Business Models

This spring it will not be ‘business as usual’ at Tennessee farmers markets and agritourism venues like pick-your-own strawberry patches. Agricultural businesses affected by the COVID-19 disease outbreak can find helpful resources for re-imagining their businesses online at the UT Center for Profitable Agriculture.

COLUMBIA, Tenn.—Like other businesses and families, Tennessee’s direct farm marketers, value-added agriculture entrepreneurs and agritourism operators are facing new and imposing challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and by local, state and national efforts to flatten the curve of infections. Navigating the situation is a daunting task, so the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture has developed a website to support farmers who are making critical decisions and business adjustments.

The free resource list is available at http://tiny.utk.edu/CPA-COVID19. The site provides links to resources made available by UT Extension and other universities, government agencies and producer organizations from across the country. Specialists with the UT Center for Profitable Agriculture along with colleagues from the Departments of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Food Science, and Plant Sciences have contributed to this streamlined listing. The website will be updated throughout this crisis as new resources are developed and identified.

Megan Bruch Leffew, marketing Specialist in UT Extension’s Center for Profitable Agriculture, said, “Farmers who are marketing products and services directly to consumers or to grocery stores and restaurants have had to make significant adjustments in the way they are doing business while we are in the midst of the outbreak. They will also have to consider how what we are all going through now will impact them moving forward related to potential changes in consumer behaviors and finances.”

Agritourism operators who typically offer springtime activities on the farm have taken a big hit due to cancellations of Easter activities, field trips, and events such as weddings and birthday parties. They are looking toward what also may be a temporary shift in consumer needs and expectations for summer and fall activities such as summer camps, field trips, family fun activities and haunted attractions.

Direct farm markets selling directly to restaurants have also seen demand from that market diminish, while demand for local product from grocery stores and from individual consumers has increased. Consumers have been seeking local food sources because of limited product availability from other suppliers. Producers with on-farm markets or who participate in farmers markets have made changes to offer pre-orders, drive-through markets or curbside pick-up and employ other measures to protect the health of their consumers, employees and families.

Agriculture Extension agents in each of Tennessee’s 95 county Extension offices and more than 3,000 producers and industry partners have received an email notifying them of this new resource from the Center for Profitable Agriculture. Producers interested in adding their email address to one or more of the Center’s lists can send a request to [email protected]. Producers should indicate their area of interest: agritourism, farmers market, value-added dairy products and/or value-added meats. Producers may also be interested in following the Center’s Facebook page for additional information:  facebook.com/ValueAddedAg.

“Our Center’s everyday focus is to provide information and education to help our farmers be profitable, although like many other agencies, the way we do that has changed a bit due to COVID-19,” said Rob Holland, director of the Center for Profitable Agriculture. “We want producers to know that we are still working to support them. We also greatly appreciate the many folks who developed and assembled the materials and educational resources that are listed on the new website.” 

Other publications and resources to help families navigate the COVID-19 crisis are available online at utextension.tennessee.edu or by contacting your local county Extension office.

Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. utia.tennessee.edu​.

About Brad Jones

Brad is the Owner/Operator of BBB TV 12, and has been with the company since August of 1996. Brad is a 1987 graduate of Coalfield High School and a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Communications. He won the 1995 broadcast production student of the year award. Brad worked at Shop at Home, Inc. a home shopping network that was located in Knoxville, TN from 1993 - 1995 and then at Via TV (RSTV, Inc.) from 1995 - 1996. After some freelance work in Nashville, Brad joined the BBB Communications staff in August of 1996. A short stint at WVLT TV as a news photographer was in 2001, but he continued to work at BBB TV as well. Brad is married to Nicole Jenkins Jones, a 1990 graduate of Oak Ridge High School, who works at Oak Ridge Gastroenterology and Associates in Oak Ridge. They have 3 kids, Trevor Bogard, 25, Chandler 21, and Naomi 11. On December 12, 2013 they welcomed their first grandchild, Carter Ryan Bogard. Brad is also the assistant boys basketball coach at Coalfield High School for the past 9 years. In 2013-14 the Yellow Jackets won their first district title since 1991 and just the 4th in school history.

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