Mid-Valley Farming During Quarantine

With empty streets and closed down storefronts, the signs of quarantine are easy to see in the city. Yet how are farmers, those purveyors of all the food that comes to us through Corvallis’ many restaurants and grocery stores, faring?  

All that food still needs to come to the city, so out in the countryside, work goes on:  

“Farmers are pretty resilient,” said Marion County farmer Austin Chapin in an interview with KOIN. “But we knew that we cannot take time off. We can’t just stop working because when we stop working we’ll miss a season, and a season is a whole year’s worth of food.”  

Yet as with the summer harvest right around the corner, capable farmhands may be in short supply. “Labor is a hard commodity to come by,” continued Chapin, who’s had to put in a bevy of extra hours at his orchard.  

However even with the harvest on its way, there may not be very many people willing to buy it. Many farms have taken a hit to sales due to the low foot traffic at markets and restaurants. This, combined with a likely slow summer due to the pandemic, makes for a fairly dire forecast in monetary terms.  

“It does make it difficult to sell product,” said local yak farmer Nick Hazelton. “Those farmers that are still putting their stuff out to market have to take extra precautions, you know- having to decide if the customer should be able to handle the product themselves, or if it should come prepackaged.”  

Farmers are a resilient bunch however, and Nick’s overarching message was one familiar to denizens of the Valley: the importance of a strong community.  

“It’s less about being able to forage for food or being able to defend yourself,” Nick continued. “The main thing you should pay attention to is ‘what can skills am I learning?’ ‘what can I provide to my community in a time like this?’ There are so many niches and valuable roles that people can play, and I think that’s the key thing.”  

By Thomas Nguyen