Local farms offer produce boxes for low-contact pickup


A produce box from Mecca Farms includes a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables for customers to enjoy. Photo courtesy of Melissa Falkowski

Anna Bayuk

A produce box from Mecca Farms includes a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables for customers to enjoy. Photo courtesy of Melissa Falkowski

During this COVID-19 crisis, grocery stores often evoke images of post-apocalyptic films: customers anxiously roaming the aisles, masked and gloved, quickly filling their carts. However, local farms have begun to offer adaptive services to the community during the crisis. Local farms like Bedner’s Family Farms and Mecca Farms are offering produce boxes for low-contact pickup.

“When COVID-19 forced people to social distance, we saw a need in our community to get fresh produce to our customers with minimal contact,” Bedner’s Farm owner Marie Bedner said.

The process for pickup in these farms has been intensely streamlined. Customers pull up in their own vehicles. They have their “orders” taken by masked and gloved members of the staff. The customer pays for their food, and the produce is then loaded into the backseat or trunk of the customer’s vehicle.

“I felt safer than I do at the grocery store,” Debate teacher Dr. Jacob Abraham said. “Keep a tube of hand sanitizer in your car if you’re that worried about the condition of any change or when your credit card is handed back to you. You can disinfect right away, that’s not as expedient as with grocery shopping at a big box store.”

The produce available at these farms is locally grown. The locally grown movement has been heralded by environmental advocates, as it cuts down on fossil fuel usage in transport and is more likely to be grown in a manner minimally utilizing pesticides. Locally grown produce often can be more costly; however, when additional steps in the chain of production means additional chances for coronavirus infection, many are willing to pay that slight upcharge.

“To go shopping for produce from the relative safety of my car and not the Mad Max: Fury Road aisles of Publix seemed [like] the most sensible choice,” Abraham said.

Different farms are offering various products. Mecca Farm offers a random vegetable or fruit box for $10, as well as individual watermelons and cobs of corn. Their season ends on May 1, so their boxes will only be available until then. Meanwhile, Bedner’s is offering a large box for $30, which contains a variety of fruits and vegetables. The content’s of the day’s box is posted on their Facebook page each morning. They have other items from their market available for curbside pickup as well.

Trapped at home, many have begun cooking with greater frequency. These produce boxes have provided supplies for new kitchen experiments.

“It has been a joy to watch the comments and photos on social media of the dishes families are creating with the produce from the box,” Bedner said. “There may be a vegetable they normally wouldn’t purchase but [realize] that they like it.”

This new endeavor also seems to have brought out a community feeling in some.

“I’ll for sure go back,” Abraham said. “A box is more food than I can get through before a lot of it would go bad. I traded a bunch of items from my last box to Mrs. Cochenour for some yeast (I’m making bread next week), I traded some beets and potatoes with Mrs. Lippel for some fruit (that she got from a different farm), and I’ve traded or shared with Mrs. Van Tassel and Mrs. Falkowski.”

Bedner also noted the increased sense of community with her experiences selling produce boxes.

“The spirit of kindness in our community has really shown through during this difficult time,” Bedner said. “Most people are buying multiple boxes for elderly parents or neighbors or family members who are out of work.  We have had people buy a box for the car behind them and  employers purchasing 30 boxes for their employees. Good karma all around!”

Mecca Farms will be ending their drive through produce box pickup on May 1. Bedner’s Farms will continue curbside pickup indefinitely. These local farms offer an environment- and community-friendly alternative to braving the aisles of grocery stores during the COVID-19 crisis.