Taste the new normal: Hendricks County farm sees increased demand for local produce during COVID-19
Squatted down on the ground with ease, a barefoot Aylin Joy Neier, 3, uses her tiny hands (donned in pink garden gloves) to gently pat the soil surrounding her freshly planted broccoli.
The preschooler joins her parents and three older siblings on the family farm for an afternoon of planting cauliflower and cabbage.
Tyler Neier hands a radish to one of this kids in their greenhouse. Neier Farms has several greenhouses that are full of fresh vegetables and hundreds of potted flowers that will be spread around the community. (Photos by Eric Pritchett)
“We are planting way more than we’ve ever planted before,” explains Mishael Neier, co-owner of Neier Farms and Produce with husband Tyler Neier located between Amo and Coatesville
Since the arrival of COVID-19, the family farm has seen an uptick in demand for locally-grown produce. While they didn’t have a lot planted in the early weeks of the quarantine (it’s spring in Indiana), the farm did have a healthy crop of winter produce.
“It went well. At the beginning of this COVID thing, it was eggs, lettuce, and spinach,” she said.
“We were inundated with people, Facebook, calls, texting. It was nonstop.”
To keep up, Neier Farms and Produce launched its first online store and is offering produce box subscriptions. It’s 15 weeks for $440.
The already-packaged boxes come with a variety of 7-10 “best of” veggies that customers pick up weekly at their farm or at the local farmers markets when they open.
The summer boxes will likely include favorites like homegrown tomatoes, sweet corn, summer squash, and green beans. So far, they’ve had 50 families sign up.
“It’s an uncertain time and I think people like the idea of locally-grown produce that’s easy and convenient to pick up without having to go to the grocery store,” said Neier, as she plans a day of homeschooling and planting 300 pounds of potatoes.
The Neier family stands in one of their greenhouses where they grow flowers and produce. With the high demand for produce in grocery stores amid the pandemic, the Neier family has started selling packs of produce to try to help community members looking for fresh food.
The farm, located on 90-plus acres of property (9-acres for produce) has been selling produce in Hendricks County for 9 years.
“We are taking orders and we are planting. God is leading our family to feed our community.”
The family joins a list of other local farms and markets seeing new requests since the arrival of COVID-19.
The Hayloft in Brownsburg that sells local farm-to-table products like flavorful meats and sausages has had new customers seek them out for curbside service.
“We like supporting local and the ground beef patties and ground beef from Fischer Farms are delicious,” said Brownsburg resident Rebekah Daday.
Lunar Farms, an urban farm in Avon is set to open its small homestead market stand on May 2.
The farm has been selling items online that range from fresh eggs and bread to handmade soaps.
“If anything this pandemic has driven us to look even deeper into what our farm can provide for us and our local community,” said Matthew Gibbs, urban farmer and owner of Lunar Farms.
As summer creeps closer, Hendricks County leaders are figuring out plans for local farmers markets. Since they are deemed essential for the food they provide, they can open, but under new COVID-19 guidelines.
Starting May 9th, Danville announced it will begin its weekly farmers markets with strict rules like limiting markets to 50 people, no sampling of food, and social distancing.
Below are a few of the parameters:
- We will limit to 50 people within the market area.
- We will not allow samples.
- We will limit the contact of produce to a minimum. We encourage packaged or bundled produce.
- We will recommend each vendor only accept credit card or round to the nearest dollar to limit contact.
- We will add additional hand sanitizer for vendors and customers. Have signs posted as a reminder.
- We will not have public restrooms available.
- All children must remain with parents at ALL times.
- Social Distancing will be required according to CDC and state guidelines.
- We will continue to follow guidelines set by Farmers Markets & State of Indiana