Local Farm Overcomes the COVID-19 Pandemic Through Community Support

Auburn Township, Ohio-The nights are cool and the air is crisp, which means that Sirna’s Farm & Market should be planning for their annual Fall Festival, which draws 500+ people each weekend. Due to COVID, the event was cancelled for the first time in 20 years, so they are reflecting on the unusual season and how to ramp up fall fun.

In mid-September, Sirna’s concluded their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. A CSA program is a way for the food loving public to create a relationship with a farm and farmers who grow their produce. By making a financial commitment to the farm, individuals become shareholders, and in return, receive a weekly amount of produce. Sirna’s CSA program has lasted twenty years ranging from seasons with 10 shareholders to a few hundred. As times have changed, the “community” part of the program has dwindled.

“People are just busy. They want to support local but at the same time want to grab and go.  We wanted to preserve the connection back to the farm, versus turning our CSA into a common local food subscription box or meal kit,” says Kristen Sirna, Farm Manager.

Each year, Sirna’s spends countless hours planning and preparing the CSA program for recipes, tips and more. “Our goal is to try to answer questions before customers even have a chance to ask them,” says Kaitlyn Sirna. “To eat locally, you must eat seasonally, and that can be challenging to new “locavores.” We try our best to make preparing meals as simple as possible.” 

Sirna’s approached the hardest and most financially-straining part of their growing season in the middle of a pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic also added a layer of fear to this year’s CSA program planning. Many questions arose in the planning stages of the program, including questions centered around education, community and the pressure of ensuring the selling of shares. 

As Sirna’s was sensing these changes, they wanted to preserve the community, so they created a private Facebook group to share CSA program updates, recipes and other farm news. The group grew into a supportive community overnight. Photos of what shareholders’ families were eating, what was being enjoyed by children, sharing family recipes and stories became the focus of conversation in the group. Community blossomed and it warmed the hearts of the staff at Sirna’s. Social media allowed Sirna’s Farm & Market to virtually connect the customers with the farmers. Having an online group with a collaborative effort from shareholders to contribute took a huge burden off the Sirna’s staff who spend most “working hours” in the field. The group allowed Sirna’s, as farmers, to contribute even during the strangest of times.

COVID-19 disrupted our nation’s food supply chain, but it didn’t destroy it. The pandemic highlighted two core values that are present in every small farm: local and community. Sirna’s Farm & Market extends their sincerest gratitude for all of their customers’ support this season.

Geauga News
Author: Geauga News