Market challenges for local specialty crop producers during the early phase of COVID-19 in North Carolina
Keywords:COVID-19, Pandemic, Horticulture Crops, Specialty Crop Production, Local Food Systems
In March of 2020, as the number of COVID-19 cases increased in North Carolina (NC), the state encouraged people to stay at home; this included closing restaurants and canceling large events, as well as reducing the number of people gathering. The economic and health crises created by COVID-19 forced specialty crop producers who sell to local markets, such as restaurants and institutions, to pivot their marketing plans as the growing season began to ramp up. This article reports the responses to the first in a series of producer surveys assessing the impact of the economic and health crises on crop production, market channels, and producer concerns during one of the most insecure times in modern history. Results show that producers who could pivot their marketing plans mostly increased sales through online channels and farm stands. However, almost 50% of the usual market channels were reported to be closed due to COVID-19. Additionally, most producers voiced concerns about economic and health safety in the immediate future. To address these concerns as the pandemic unfolded, there was a need for trusted information. Respondents reported that they rely on Extension and other government agencies for this information and updates regarding the pandemic. This survey captured the early impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the specialty crop-producing industry in NC. Additional surveys will provide information on how the pandemic evolved during 2020.
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