“When the shutdowns were happening, there were farmers markets and restaurants closing down, and a little bit of panic was setting in,” Miller said. “It put farmers in a bind. They were now without those immediate markets to sell their products.”
CFSA organizers also began considering those who had lost their jobs during the pandemic. Eventually, the association partnered with the Piedmont Culinary Guild, a forum for farmers and culinary professionals. Soon thereafter, they began working with local food hubs to sign up laid-off restaurant and hospitality workers to receive produce boxes.
Jesse Leadbetter, co-founder of Charlotte-based foodhub and delivery service Freshlist, said that 95% his business was restaurant based prior to the pandemic. When the shutdowns began, Freshlist began doing home deliveries, and also partnered with FarmsSHARE to distribute produce.
“We had helped the CFSA do a sustainable ag conference every year, and we helped them source local ingredients from our farmers for the conference,” Leadbetter said. “And this program (FarmsSHARE) had a lot of layers of benefits. We had money going into farmers’ hands quickly, food to hospitality workers. Last year we distributed products from 191 different growers.”
Since its inception, FarmsSHARE has delivered more than a quarter-million pounds of produce in 30 North Carolina counties, as well as 19,000 pounds of meat, 2,500 gallons of milk and 1,000 pounds of cheese.