I hope anyone reading this is doing well, with the state of New York being an epicenter of America’s coronavirus outbreak. I think everyone has gotten emails from every business out there, outlining their coronavirus response, so I understand we’re all overwhelmed with everything going on, with information and statements flooding from many directions. I hope to be brief and to the point for where my farm is at in all this, and my thoughts on the year to come.
First, as far as garlic festivals go, 2 out of 3 of them have already solicited existing vendors (like me) to sign up for this autumn’s coming season. The organizers are certainly acting like they are still on. If I believe that it’s what’s right for society- you, me, and the people around us, I will be there for them. Things can change day by day with this so that’s all I can say on that. Things are tentatively “on” but that doesn’t mean much. State and federal guidelines for large gatherings are going to be need-driven and I certainly respect Andrew Cuomo’s word on what should and shouldn’t be done. I do not know Vermont and Connecticut’s response to the virus or where it will be in several month’s time, so those can vary. Right now in New York, the word is that farmer’s markets are considered essential and will continue as planned. I do not know what a hybrid farmer/food festival like a garlic festival will be viewed as. I have not received guidance on this from any festival organizers. I’m of the opinion that human life matters more than any economic impact, so that is what drives my decision-making. I will find a way to get garlic to you, regardless of venues. I hope things are in better shape by September and October but that depends a lot on the actions we take today.
My personal commitment is as follows- I have 15,000 garlic plants in the ground, I have customers who know garlic is part of a healthy diet and will want their yearly chance to get some. To make my farm more resilient to the risk of one, two, or all three festivals being cancelled in several month’s time, I am working right now to make my website easier to use, and simplifying my pricing. Normally online garlic sales command a premium above garlic festival prices but I’m aligning my online prices with my festival prices by lowering them, so that people used to my festival deals can continue to get them. The real added cost, to both of us, will be shipping. Shipping these days has a simple incentive for you of getting enough garlic to be worth the cost. A minimum package cost tends to be $5 to $7, even for a tiny amount, while flat rate packages of $8-$10 can hold a large amount of garlic and other products. So, a lot of people like my farm because they previously could get small amounts of many types of garlic, and being able to browse exactly what bulb size they would like. To be able to handle volume, I don’t think I’ll be able to honor small-volume requests of particular bulb sizes. I will brainstorm in the next few months if I can come up with a plan to solve that logistically, but in the meanwhile, people will have to buy larger minimum amounts. I could make variety packs, if it's "farmer's choice" for what gets put in what. For best value, buying half pounds of things will probably become the norm.
As for the practicalities of garlic availability, my harvest usually starts, nearly like clockwork, around July 16th to 18th, and then I slow-cure the garlic for 3-5 weeks. It’s unwise to ship it during this time because it has more moisture than usual, so I am unlikely to ship any sooner than the end of August. Only the USPS does on-farm pickup, so I may unilaterally make that the only shipping option- both due to the farm’s need long before the virus, and due to that being the likely best way to protect myself and others by not making special post office trips.
Pending government decisions on quarantines, travel, etc, I will find a way to make local sales, either allowing pickup or making deliveries. My garlic was available for a limited time last year at Moses Farm Stand in Eagle Bridge, New York, and I plan on selling there again, but that is not set in stone until I get word from them. I am growing onions, shallots, flour corn (Hopi Blue and Tuscarora White, both seed grade and food grade), winter squash, ginger, and potatoes this year, so local deliveries will have a “minimum order” requirement but with added crops, this target will be easier to hit. I’d love to drop off sacks of potatoes and onions and your bags of garlic.
Your support at this time is more critical than ever, while my commitment to growing food is more critical than ever as well. Whatever else comes out of this, we will all be strongly reminded this year how we need each other. I’ve got good, healthfully grown food on the way, and I hope you guys will make the effort to support me in this. Meanwhile, sit tight and wash your hands!