Central Florida farmers try to adapt as coronavirus closures decrease demand

Food service companies reduce orders amid COVID-19 outbreak

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – Although grocery store shelves have been pretty bare lately, many of Florida’s produce farmers are still struggling because many businesses, like restaurants and theme parks, remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At Long and Scott Farms in Lake County, Hank Scott is in the midst of harvest time for his cucumbers.

“We need a good year, just like everyone does,” he said. “We need a good year to survive.”

[UPDATED LIST: How to buy straight from Florida’s farmers hurt by coronavirus pandemic]

Scott said the pandemic has interrupted his routine sales with wholesalers, where their food ends up in food services.

“Now you got plenty of product, are you able to move it or are you stuck with it? We figure [that part of our business accounts for] somewhere near 25%-30%," he said.

Scott already noticed a dip with his latest cabbage harvest.

“I think our last 25-30 acres of cabbage we did away with,” Scott said. “There’s nowhere to go with it.”

Scott said he donates a lot of unused food to local food pantries, but found difficulty donating as other local farmers inundated food pantries to the point where they didn’t need it.

Scott’s sister, Rebecca Scott Tyndall, handles the farm’s entertainment, including their fall corn maze.

"The retail side is a lot different than the wholesale side," she said. "Right now our market is doing real well."

Long and Scott Farms opened their market two weeks early, even before their corn was ready, because of COVID-19.

[RELATED: Coronavirus claims an unexpected victim: Florida vegetables]

"We've got a lot of people coming out and thrilled to get fresh local produce and not being a grocery store, that's a good thing," she said. "You have to be ready for anything in the farming business."

Right now, Long and Scott Farms’ market is open with limited hours: Thursday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

We are open every Thursday- Saturday 9-2pm! We have lots of produce, quite a bit of it grown here on the farm. Red cabbage, green cabbage, Kirby cucumbers, kale, collards, mustard greens, conch peas, seedless lemons,brussels sprouts, sweet onions, tomatoes, red peppers, onions, green peppers, sweet potatoes, living lettuce, and more. We also have local butter and eggs. Fresh made cole slaw, chicken salad, corn chowder, and pickles packaged to go. Our country store is also open with jams, jellies, sauces and other goodies!

Posted by Long & Scott Farms on Thursday, April 9, 2020

To help Florida’s farmers stay afloat during this difficult time, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have created the “Florida Farm To You” commodities list.

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