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In the News: Our Director on Big Impact of Online Sales Amidst COVID-19 Challenges

Cornell Small Farms Program director, Anu Rangarajan, was recently interviewed for an article in Saveur magazine about the unique successes some small farms have had with direct-to-consumer online sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. When COVID-19 began shutting down business early last year, the decrease in food demand from restaurants put many small farms in a precarious position. The loss of reliable restaurant sales forced many farms to look into alternative direct-to-consumer models to stay afloat, a model consumers eagerly welcomed. 

“One thing that did emerge pretty quickly [with COVID-19] was a recognition of the importance of our local food systems,” Rangarajan told Saveur.

One model that met resounding success was a collaborative farm hub that collates goods from over 75 farms and sells them through one online farmer’s market portal. Named the Sunderland Farm Collaborative, the program opened during the pandemic and was immediately overwhelmed with orders. For instance, Kitchen Garden Farm, the creator of the program, has had to triple employment since Sunderland’s launch to meet consumer demand. 

The success of Sunderland’s model has illustrated what Rangarajan deems a “reinvigoration of people’s interest in purchasing food locally,” reported Saveur.

Sunderland’s model isn’t without challenges — fielding novel costs of delivery and personal protective equipment to function during the pandemic have been an obstacle — but the adaptability of farms in their network and the eagerness of consumers to work directly with farms has been a beacon of hope for the future. 

According to Rangarajan there has been “a real uptick in commitment to deal with the disruptions in the food system we observed because of COVID-19,” Saveur reported. Sunderland Food Collaborative’s model is one demonstration of that commitment, and its success speaks volumes to the novel opportunities farmers will encounter as COVID-19 continues to change the food landscape.

For more information on the successes direct-to-consumer sales have brought to small farms, reference the article on Saveur.

Delia Guilbert

Delia is a sophomore in CALS majoring in Environment & Sustainability. Back in her home state of Colorado, she was involved in student newspaper, vegetable gardening, and helped process poultry with a local family farm. Delia is looking forward to expanding the scope of her writing to outreach for Cornell Small Farms, and is thrilled to be a part of the team. Her interest in agriculture began with her own small flock of chickens, and she's excited to expand her agriculture knowledge and practice.
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