COVID-19 is causing Louisiana farmers who normally sell some of their fresh produce at food stands and farmers' markets to rethink how to continue selling to locals.
The LA Farm Food Map and Directory depicts an online map of distributors and farmers' markets that sell Louisiana products.
The directory was made thanks to the Louisiana Farm to School Program, a relatively new effort to promote the three tenants of National Farm to School — local procurement, education, and school gardens. Louisiana Farm to School also functions as a liaison between farms and schools to provide children with fresh, local farm food.
"Once schools, restaurants, and many local grocers closed due to COVID-19, Louisiana farmers lost valuable market opportunities," said Johannah Frelier, Louisiana Farm to School program manager at LSU AgCenter. "At the same time, consumers were cooking more, wanted to support local farmers and buy local, and decrease trips to crowded grocery stores. We wanted to offer a resource to connect farmers directly to consumers that could be updated with the changing conditions and provide a safe alternative to bring farm-fresh food to households through methods such as home delivery, curbside pickup, and drive-thru farmers markets."
What food is sold?
The farms listed in the directory are primarily small to medium farms, all selling directly to consumers. Farms across the state provide a variety of products. Many are produce farmers, but some sell meat, seafood, dairy, rice, and much more. Check out the directory for details on which products the farms sell at https://bit.ly/-farm-food-map.
"The directory and map help local farms by advertising them to consumers who are looking to purchase directly from a farmer," Frelier said. "Interested Louisiana growers should complete the online form at https://bit.ly/farm-food-map-form to add their farm or business to the directory or to update information about their business currently listed in the directory. This information is also found by visiting the directory under the 'LA Farm Food Map and Directory' tab. With this tool, users can search for sellers by region and parish in Louisiana."
Arkansas has a similar directory to the LA Farm Food Map and Directory. Arkansas Farm to School developed a food access map to provide information about the school and community meals, food pantries, gardens, and farms that are providing food during COVID-19. This can be found on their Facebook page at https://bit.ly/arkansasfarmtoschool.
At the beginning of summer, drive-thru options offered one way locals were able to access farmers' markets. However, many drive-thru markets have transitioned relatively back to normal in the last few weeks and have COVID-19 safety measures in place such as wearing masks, practicing social distancing, only allowing growers to handle food, etc.
"Before Louisiana’s stay at home order expired on May 15, drive-thru markets were an innovative solution to safely provide consumers with farm-fresh food and allow farms, which are essential businesses, to continue selling their product during a peak growing season," Frelier said. "Pre-orders were encouraged, and several growers developed an online platform for the first time.
"We hope to continue the effort of connecting consumers with farmers post COVID-19. We are also organizing our annual Louisiana Farm to School conference which will be virtual this year. It will be held over four days from 11:30 a.m.to 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 30, Oct. 1, Oct. 7, and Oct. 8. We will have sessions covering local procurement, school gardens, education, and much more. I would suggest directing readers to our Facebook page at https://bit.ly/la-farm-to-school as more details will be coming soon."