Kennebec Journal interviews Extension officials about how coronavirus affects farmers

The Kennebec Journal interviewed several officials from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected local farmers, as well as how producers have adapted. Donna Coffin, a UMaine Extension educator, said fears “about the unknown” have hindered farmers’ ability to make business decisions. Some producers have begun selling Community Supported Agriculture shares to generate revenue in preparation for a long outbreak. Caragh Fitzgerald, an associate UMaine Extension professor of agriculture, said a farm owner or worker contracting COVID-19 could derail operations, so Extension has been exploring ways for producers to generate written procedures for relief work, according to the article. In the meantime, Richard Brzozowski, a food system program administrator with UMaine Extension, said farmers must share job opportunities through the state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The article also highlighted the work of Jason Lilley, a sustainable agriculture professional with UMaine Extension, in helping create an online directory of wholesale farm products available directly to consumers. The directory, which Lilley said has more than 44,000 views since it launched, features a clickable map and a database that can be searched for specific products — from sheep cheese to scallops — among other resources. “These farms are also creating new ways in which customers can pay for and pick-up food, including online orders, curbside pickup, or prepackaged bags of food to minimize time at the stand and handling of food,” Lilley said.