Small Farms Find Creative Ways to Attract Visitors During the Coronavirus Pandemic
When shelter-in-place restrictions hit North Carolina this past March, Beverly Mooney—the owner of Millstone Creek Orchards in Ramseur—knew she had to figure out a way to adapt quickly. “My business was considered an essential food source,” she says, “but with only a bakery and cannery on site, it really limited me on what I could offer.”
Mooney began reaching out to other small farmers and food producers in the area, seeing whether they'd like to be a part of the orchard's new Apple Barn Mobile Market, which pulls together products from various local farms and delivers them directly to customers. “In the beginning, we had one person selling their farm's sausage, another selling eggs, and a woman who provided us with beautiful microgreens that she usually sold to restaurants,” says Mooney. The Apple Barn Mobile Market has since grown to a few-dozen products, including fresh goat cheese from nearby Goat Lady Dairy, tomatoes from Twin Oaks Produce, and Liberty Kettle Corn from local purveyor Becky Suphin, who says her sales are up 50 percent from what they would be during the pandemic without the market. It's just one of the innovative ways that Mooney has reworked her property's offerings in the age of COVID-19—others include a socially distant farmers' market, pick-your-own fruit that allows adequate space between participants and a reservation-only “behind-the-scenes” farm tour.