(04/24/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — People who are searching for farm-fresh foods and ways to support the Louisiana economy during the coronavirus pandemic can turn to a new online tool to find sellers that are open for business.
Johannah Frelier, manager of the Louisiana Farm to School Program, developed a directory and map of farms and businesses in collaboration with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. The materials are available at http://www.ldaf.state.la.us/covid-19/ under the “LA Farm Food Map and Directory” tab.
“The directory and map can be used as a resource for consumers looking to purchase farm-fresh food during these times and support our local farmers,” Frelier said. “During this challenging time, many Louisiana farmers and businesses are experiencing significant market disruptions but are also quickly adapting to incorporate innovative and safe alternatives to bring farm-fresh food to households, such as home delivery, curbside pickup and drive-thru farmers markets.”
The site identifies farms selling directly to consumers, farmers markets and distributors that sell Louisiana products. Listings will be updated regularly to reflect changes being made to operations as the coronavirus situation evolves.
Users can search for sellers by region and parish. Among the offerings are organic rice that can be shipped directly from northeast Louisiana to customers’ homes; honey and pecans from central Louisiana; seafood and grass-fed beef from the southwest part of the state; fruits and vegetables from the southeast; and several drive-thru farmers markets in northwest Louisiana, Frelier said.
“Farms are deemed an essential business during the pandemic,” Frelier said. “Purchasing directly from a small farm or local business helps to keep our community employed and stimulates Louisiana’s economy. They also can be a great option for those looking to reduce trips to crowded grocery stores.”
She noted that Louisiana farmers are moving into peak harvest season for fruits and vegetables. With schools closed and restaurants operating at reduced capacity, many farms have an overabundance of produce.
“Most are small- to medium-scale family farms,” said Carl Motsenbocker, LSU AgCenter horticulture professor and executive director of the Louisiana Farm to School Program. “They have had to adapt to lost markets — for instance, a local farm that relied on restaurant sales has lost that market or greatly diminished volume. Consumers are not going out as much to restaurants but still want great food and local ingredients.”
To meet that demand and bolster sales while keeping customers safe, Motsenbocker said, farms are trying new methods, such as offering additional ordering, pickup and delivery options. Some farms as well as farmers markets are aggregating products from multiple growers to create community supported agriculture, or CSA, boxes.
“There is an incredible amount of adapting and creativity going on now with local food systems and our farmers,” he said.
Louisiana sellers can complete a form at https://forms.gle/24i7HiumLKZSmBZ6A to be added to the directory and map.
Iverstine Farms, of Kentwood and with a retail location in Baton Rouge, delivers meat and dairy items to customers in East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Livingston and Ascension parishes during the coronavirus stay-at-home order. Photo provided by Iverstine Farms
Farms employees wear protective face masks while preparing cuts of meat. Photo
provided by Iverstine Farms
People line up in their vehicles to buy produce at the Red Stick Farmers Market in Baton Rouge. The market has begun operating as a drive-thru amid coronavirus concerns. Photo by Carl Motsenbocker/LSU AgCenter