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Charlottesville-area farmers changing the way they do business

Updated: Nov. 2, 2020 at 1:03 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Many farmers where hurt when the coronavirus pandemic caused markets in the Charlottesville area to shut down. However, a nonprofit stepped in to help them to quickly shift gears.

“We needed to function as a business and we needed to find a way to do it and that was what was going to happen,” Bellair Farm Head Farm Manager Michelle McKenzie said.

Before COVID-19, vendors at farmers markets would put food out for customers to touch and take, but that had to change.

“Literally this market and the Local Food Hub have been an integral part in how we were able to pivot,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie sells vegetables and meats at markets like the one organized by the Local Food Hub in a parking lot along Hydraulic Road.

“Even though it was a struggle and it was hard, it gave me a direction and it gave me something to work towards and focus on. It helped me get through the early days of the pandemic,” McKenzie said.

The Local Food Hub has been helping many local farmers get through the pandemic by hosting drive-through markets. These events are now the new way of doing business.

“When we heard the City Market wasn’t going to open, that was really scary because farmers at that point in the season had invested a lot in their year and haven’t gotten anything back yet,” Local Food Hub Grower Services Director Stasia Greenewalt said. “Since late March, over $550,000 has stayed in this area and spent on local farmers which is wonderful.”

Even though markets looks different, these farmers are grateful for interactions they now have with customers.

“My favorite thing is you just get to see the same people every week and because of that you kind of always get people excited about something that they tried that was new,” Brielle Sansone, a farm intern at Whisper Hills Farms, said.

For Bellair Farm, this pandemic has changed the way they do business forever.

“To some extent everyone wants to get back to normal, but I also am very aware of some of the components we’re doing now to prevent general food safety situations. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to letting my hundreds of customers go through the bins on their own," McKenzie said.

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