Coronavirus Impact: Bay Area farmers pre-pack produce for easy, safe shopping during pandemic

ByDan Ashley and Jennifer Olney KGO logo
Tuesday, April 14, 2020
Bay Area farmers pre-pack produce for easy, safe shopping during pandemic
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Bay Area farmers and the Commuinity Supported Agriculture (CSA) are inventing new ways to safely sell fresh farm produce to residents during the COVID-19 pandemic- by pre-packaging produce boxes for shoppers.

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) -- Bay Area residents who are trying to stay safe, eat healthy and support local farmers are fueling sales of pre-packed boxes of fresh produce, often called CSA's, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It's a win for consumers and at least a temporary lifeline for some farmers.

Some farmers' markets now give you a choice - either shop the booths yourself or let someone else prepare an assorted box for you, so you never even have to get out of your car.

The Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM) has just launched what it calls a "Bounty Box," full of assorted fruits and vegetables from the same farmers who sell at AIM's markets. Order online, then just drive up on market day and get it loaded straight into trunk.

You can pick one up at farmers' markets at the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael, Clement Street in San Francisco and Grand Lake Theater in Oakland.

"We were blown away by the response" said Andy Naja-Riese, AIM's CEO. "We had not done any publicity for it. We put an ordering system on our website and it actually went viral through Nextdoor in our Oakland communities," he added. The boxes are $25 and $45, depending on the size.

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Lawrie Mott of San Anselmo was thrilled when she learned about the program. "I love the farmers market, but I am in that (health) risk category" said Mott. During the pandemic she is being extra careful, so she was grateful to be able to pick food without having to go into the market. She also wants to keep supporting local farmers.

The farm-box concept is also coming to the rescue of farmers themselves.

"It takes a lot of work, but it's saving the farm" said Annabelle Lenderink, operations manager of Star Route Farms.

Star Route has organic farms in West Marin and the Coachella Valley. They specialize in produce for high end restaurants - so when restaurants closed or cut back business because of COVID-19, Star Route faced potential disaster.

"But we we're extremely lucky to have been able to turn the farm in a different direction" explained Lenderink.

RELATED: Central Valley farm workers practice social distancing as they continue work in fields

Now Star Route's farm workers are packing boxes of assorted produce to sell directly to consumers. You order online, then pick up at designated sites around the Bay Area. Boxes cost $30.

The first week Star Farms sold about 200 boxes. Now just a couple weeks later, they are up to 900 boxes, with 15 pick up sites.

Some other local farms that were already selling food boxes before the pandemic are so busy they now have waiting lists. So look for more local farms and farmers markets to start selling fresh prepacked produce straight to consumers soon.

Some of the farms and many farmers markets accept CalFresh, the updated version of food stamps.

Bank of America just announced a $10,000 donation to support the Agricultural Institute of Marin farm box program. CalFresh customers get boxes for half price.

RELATED: Coronavirus crisis: What does it cost a small business to stay open in the Bay Area right now? A lot

Here is a list of some farmers and farmers' markets selling pre-packed boxes of fresh produce and other farm products available in the Bay Area. Most require you order in advance on line. Some deliver to your home, others are for pick up at farmers' markets or other designated sites. Some farms require a regular subscription.

This is not a complete list, the farm offerings change frequently, and some have waiting lists. The pre-packed boxes are often referred to as CSA's, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture

  • Agricultural Institute of Marin, farmers markets in San Rafael, Oakland and San Francisco
  • San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market
  • Acta Non Verba
  • Alameda Point Collaborative's Farm2Market CSA
  • Coyote Family Farm
  • Dirty Girl Produce
  • Eatwell Farm
  • Farm Fresh to You
  • FEED Sonoma
  • Frog Hollow Farm
  • Full Belly Farm
  • Fifth Crow Farm
  • Greenhearts Family Farm
  • Martin Bournhonesque
  • Oya Organics
  • Phat Beets Produce
  • Riverdog Farm
  • Star Route Farms
  • Urban Tilth
  • Terra Firma Farm
  • Tomatero Farm
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