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My Socially Distanced Love Affair with our Local Farmers!

As President of the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance and a passionate supporter of local food, I have watched with amazement the explosion of interest in locally-produced food during this pandemic. The Alliance runs the Red Hills Online Market which serves over 80 producers of fruit and vegetables, meats and cheeses, honey, milk, and eggs. Our producers are small, and everything sold thru the Market is locally produced in the Tallahassee region.  Your patronage of the Red Hills Online Market has been an absolute lifeline to these small farmers and ranchers. Many of them sold to local restaurants before and depended on the substantial crowds at physical farmers’ markets. Now that those business streams have become very limited, their ability to sell these perishable products directly to consumers thru avenues like Red Hills Online Market has been absolutely vital. For many of our producers, our Market has become their biggest source of revenue. In our very short supply chain from producer to consumer, nothing is going to waste. The overnight growth of participation in the Red Hills Online Market has stretched the human and other resources of our small non-profit. But we exist foremost to help support the local farmers and we have streamlined our processes and invested in people and equipment to help meet the demand for this wonderful locally-produced food. Lately, we have had more demand than we can serve, but I’m excited to say that we are steadily increasing our ability to handle more customers and as the local growing season shifts to summer vegetables, we’ll have more to sell!  Part of the ability to serve increased demand is the farm product itself. Like the rest of us, our farmers didn’t see this pandemic coming and with it, the increase in demand for local food. Food production doesn’t ramp up overnight. The simplest and shortest things to grow like radishes, take 30-45 days. The lead time to grow and process all the meat products is even longer.  But the bounty of summer is right around the corner- think heirloom tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, potatoes, cukes and squash, all grown right here in our Big Bend backyard. And if demand stays up, as each season’s plantings are done and new livestock are born, the farmers and ranchers will be ready to meet the greater demand. It’s the whole supply/demand thing!  If you’ve fallen in love with the freshness, healthiness and taste of locally-produced food like I have, I urge you to keep supporting these local farmers by shopping on the Red Hills Online Market. Thank you for your patience, but mostly thank you for supporting our area’s small farms. You came during the pandemic, and we hope you’ll stay when we get to our new normal! Your local farmers are counting on you!  Cari Roth President of the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance

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