WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The coronavirus pandemic has forced local farmers to get creative to keep fresh fruits and vegetables flowing, and people are eating it up.
Jersey strawberries are ripe for the picking at Melick’s Town Farm in Whitehouse Station, but before you show up to pick your own, you must sign up online.
“So that we can space people out every 15 minutes,” said Rebecca Melick, a 10th generation New Jersey farmer.
She says customers have been calling for weeks, waiting to roam the fields and find the perfect pick.
“They’ve been knocking down the door,” she told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock.
Stephanie Wilson brought her daughters, ages 6 and 3. She said with homeschooling done, they needed something fun to do outside, and she appreciated the field wasn’t packed with people.
“It was nice to know they are limiting how many people are out there,” Wilson said. “With young kids, it’s hard, very hard to keep people apart.”
While strawberries might be the reason for a visit Wednesday, springtime is typically quiet at the farm, but not this year.
“There is tremendous demand for shopping at a local establishment in an open-air environment,” Melick said.
Melick says she’s never before stocked bananas; now she does. Community-supported agriculture, or CSA, memberships are up 50%. The homemade hard cider and wine are huge hits with loyal customers and new ones.
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At Windy Brow Farms in Fredon Township, the pandemic forced a shift in focus and it’s paying off. Compared to last year, off-season profits are up 25%.
“We’ve switched to a pure online pre-order system,” managing partner Jacob Hunt said.
Hunt says typically homemade ice cream and fresh-baked pastries are the spring mainstay, but now he’s selling vegetables and more.
“Something we would never normally do has been really good for us,” he said.
Hunt hopes that the unusual spring will carry him through summer, as a big chunk of his peach crop got wiped out by a late season kill frost.
But still he’s making plans to welcome all to pick your own peaches and apples this summer.
One possibility is online reservations, which seems to be working for the strawberry lovers.