COVID-19 considerations bring confusion, uncertainty to Northwest family farms
The strawberries have just begun to bud at Boring's Liepold Farms.
If this were a normal year, brother and sister Jeff Liepold and Michelle Krummenacker would be tending the grounds and preparing for early May harvest, just as their parents and grandparents did before them. But as with many things in the era of COVID-19, this year is far from normal.
For the first time in this third-generation family farm, it's not clear if the migrant workers who harvest strawberries each spring will be allowed to travel north from California to work the fields. And if those fieldworkers do arrive, Krummenacker said, the family does not know how it will sell its prized Hoods this year — or whether one of the farm's biggest customers will still be buying its other Oregon-grown fruits.
"I think people take it for granted when you go to the store, like, 'Oh, there's food here' — and it takes a lot of time, energy and work to get things from our field to that place," she said.
The good news for Northwest consumers: Despite all the uncertainty affecting growers across the region, experts say the food supply is sound, with growers in California and Florida reporting abundant crops. The supply chain, on the other hand, has been challenged. Growers used to selling to restaurant chains and school cafeterias have been unable to quickly pivot to sell to supermarkets instead. Access to freshly harvested local fruits and vegetables from small and medium-sized farms? That is not a sure thing.
This OPB story is shared as part of a local media project to increase COVID-19 news coverage.
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