ROCHESTER, Minn. - Independent farmers are reeling in the wake of coronavirus restrictions affecting restaurants.
Regulations limiting capacity at eateries have caused demand for produce to drop dramatically, leaving small farms with an unexpected surplus of inventory.
"Since the reduced capacity, the need is less, so they're not able to sell as much," says Aaron Skoglund, Sous Chef at Pescara, a seafood restaurant in downtown Rochester.
Statistics from ResourcED show small farms across the country recorded a 51% drop in sales to restaurants through May, with many farms fearing they would be closed by year's end.
At The Greensted in Zumbrota, local producers Dean and Jayne Bredlau witnessed the devastating impact on farmers first-hand.
"A lot of farms struggled because they were planting in January and February and planting seedlings for a large harvest to provide for restaurants, and then that didn't happen. That's a serious loss," Jayne Bredlau said.
Faced with a changing environment for their independent farm, the Bredlaus dug deep and found solutions that would put them on a path to sustainability.
"It was basically getting with the online sales," said Dean Bredlau. "Getting products sold online, getting the word out,"
The Bredlaus invested in The Greensted's digital presence, improving its website, connecting on apps, and even making sales through social media.
"We had a lot of people coming to do non-contact farm pick-ups. So they would order through our website, and I would put it out in a cooler with something they could put their money in and be on their way," Jayne Bredlau said.
The Greensted also responded to changing demand by prioritizing distribution to grocery stores.
"The local grocery store has been an untapped market, especially for micro-greens. So that's what we went after, and we've been welcomed into nearly every store," said Dean Bredlau.
The Bredlaus say business in now better than ever at The Greensted.