How organic and local food markets are affected by COVID-19
Rosalyn Lehman, executive director of the Iowa Organic Association says that while there is much uncertainty about food availability and access due to the effects of COVID-19 on the supply chain, organic and local food sources are in demand.
“Our colleagues at the Iowa Food Co-op saw an increase of $12,000 from March sales, making it their highest month ever. Additionally, Joia Food Farm in Charles City (an organic, local meat marketing and distribution service) has had double the amount of sales,” explains Lehman.
Community-supported agriculture systems (CSAs) are seeing an increase in subscriptions, and organic seed companies are inundated with sales. But they’re also facing their own challenges with fulfillment as social distancing requirements affect their abilities to sort, pack, and distribute.
“With COVID-19 perhaps inspiring greater interest in gardening and homesteading this year, there is clearly demand for local food. But will this trend continue? Will local producers be able to continue meeting local demand?” asks Lehman.
While there aren’t many answers now, these groups are finding innovative solutions to help their communities navigate the challenges through listservs, stakeholder groups, virtual meetings, and newsletters.
“For the organic market, there is a demand. The U.S. imports 70% of organic grain each year. Iowa farmers and farms could be meeting this demand,” says Lehman. “Not only can we meet this important need, the benefits of organic farming are experienced by many far beyond the farm where their food was produced through the environment, health, and boosting local economies.”