Minnesota farmers trying to find new markets during COVID-19

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Minnesotans are grocery shopping at four to five times the rate they normally do according to the state’s agriculture department, amid concerns over COVID-19.

“Minnesotans have been buying groceries in record numbers,” said Thom Peterson, Minnesota’s agriculture commissioner. "That’s put some kinks in some of the supply chain … rest assured there’s food out there and we're working on getting it out to the shelves."

Beef and eggs continue to be two items slowly getting out to stores in recent days, Peterson said.

As a way to find items that might be missing on store shelves, Peterson suggests the Minnesota Grown website as a way to locate local producers of the food item in need.

“It’s a great way to help those local farmers who have lost some of their markets,” Peterson said.

The state’s agriculture department is working with the Minnesota Grocers Association in light of COVID-19 to help farmers find "new" opportunities after losing direct markets to restaurants and vendors that are not currently open.

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“It only makes sense to help all the way through the food chain,” said Jamie Pfuhl of the Minnesota Grocers Association. ”All of a sudden you’re seeing a bread product that you are used to getting at the restaurant, you can now get at your grocer—keeping that little bit of comfort in the community is really great.”

At the Graise Farm in Fairbault, Tiffany Tripp and Andy Olson are working to set up a pickup location for their customers to buy free-range chicken and duck eggs at the farm.

“We’re seeing that people want to buy more food because they are eating more at home, we want people to know they have the options to buy local food,” Tripp said.

The couple started their farm five years ago raising chicken, ducks and pigs to sell to restaurants and grocery stores.

COVID-19 has changed some of their business due to restaurants closing for the time being but grocery sales have increased.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty, fear, the unknown,” said Tripp about COVID-19. "There's stress, we’re two farmers who take care of literally hundreds of ducks and chickens, a few pigs.”

Tripp said the farm is working with other food producers in the area to operate the Keepsake Cidery Farmers' Market Saturday afternoon in Dundas.