Working Through Covid with Danielle

MEET DANIELLE (MAP's Markets Director)

When COVID-19 starting impacting Buffalo, Taylor (MAP’s former Mobile Market Veggie Van Coordinator) and I were already deep into planning for the market season ahead. Seedlings were sprouting and we were all still buzzing with excitement from a fun and successful SIP & CSA Day event at the Farmhouse where hundreds of people gathered to learn about local farms. We had no idea what to expect for summer.

We “pivoted” quickly and turned our very in-person Spring Seedling Sale into a web store, making the farm’s seedlings and a few local spring veggies accessible online. We accepted phone orders, swiped SNAP cards, and did everything we could to help folks get their gardens going. It turns out, folks were VERY excited to garden. Everyone was so patient with us. Honestly, it was incredible how understanding everyone was when our website wasn't quite right or our social media wasn't quite on point. There were a lot of hiccups but we managed to get a record number of seedlings out the door.
Then, market season hit. We faced a lot of uncertainties but managed to kick off the season with a few Mobile Market locations across the city. We were faced with a new obstacle -- how do we sell fresh food that no one can touch, sample or really smell? We have relied on the senses, now covered in masks, to help us introduce new foods. We pivoted again. Marketing food without touch, taste or smell required LOTS more talking. We took food home to practice techniques and storage, we printed out extra copies of our recipes, and we coached interns on how to talk to customers about their experiences with the food we sell.
At our Farmhouse we were able to get most of our market items into our web store. This was no small task. We dabbled in curbside pick up and added a few more socially distanced mobile markets. We were delighted to find customers were happy shopping in person with all of our safety protocols in place. We did LOTS and LOTS of wiping, cleaning, spraying and sanitizing, but struggled still with community relationships. It was really tough to build relationships while socially distancing, but we did our best.

None of this would have been possible without an amazing market team. Taylor, Dan & Karine are the familiar faces you see at our markets. They jumped right into the unknown with me and truly made our market team a family. We were fortunate to take on some fabulous interns, too. Sarah, Johanna, and Heidi walked into the Farmhouse at the beginning of the season, nervous and unsure of how this was going to go. Just a few weeks later we were all happily lugging boxes onto the market truck and talking with folks about dinner time and healthy snacks. Weeks later, Justin, Emily & Brenna joined the team and Joe made a crossover from Farm Intern to the market. Everyone was courageous and upbeat despite the mountains of obstacles we all faced. We knew people were really struggling but to be honest, it didn't feel like that. Everyone that came was happy and welcomed the social interaction. We spent the time at our markets filled with gratitude for folks that were making it out. We spent our time away from markets working on how to reach those that could not make it out.
We spent a great deal of time listening to folks in the communities we serve. We heard a lot of folks describe big shifts in their routines and honest accounts of how they were coping. Many told us the market was the only place they were seeing other people and they much enjoyed a couple minutes of interaction with us. Many more shared financial and employment woes and talked about how hard things have been. We were honored to be able to offer the All Access Pass which supported both our farmers and customers.

I have spent an inordinate amount of time, back at the office, making sure we were following all the ever-changing county and state guidelines. My biggest priority was ensuring SAFE fresh food access and it seems we have accomplished that. Running a business during a pandemic has been a whirlwind but it's been great to be able to help folks fill their fridge with healthy, fresh, and local food.

We've expanded our Farmhouse Market with lots
of MAP-made goodies and items from friends!

MAP-made bee's cloth
MAP-made DIY Natural Dye Kits