August 2020 Over the past few months, I have written articles supporting the Carmel Farmers Market and highlighting its continued dedication to the community by pivoting around the pandemic to meet the needs of its customers and vendors. Carmel Monthly has been a longtime supporter of the market and the long list of loyal vendors who have come out every Saturday to sell their products, all of whom would have had limited options, or no options, as to where they could sell their products if the market had not been classified as \u201cessential\u201d throughout the shutdown created by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a person who is in the high-risk population and has been confined to my home since March, I experienced firsthand the challenge of getting fresh and nutritious foods delivered to my home in the early stages of the shutdown. The local grocery stores in my town were depleted of the produce, dairy and proteins that my family typically consumes, and the third-party delivery services were either not readily available to my neighborhood or were unable to \u201chunt down\u201d the items that I was desperately seeking to feed my family. If it hadn\u2019t been for the local farmers and purveyors making their products available to the Carmel Farmers Market, for the kinds souls who\u2019ve delivered locally produced items to my home and for the online market\/retailer services that specialize in selling locally produced products to nonwholesale customers, I\u2019m quite certain that I would not have had immediate access to common things like chicken, lettuce, milk, cheeses and many other basic items that I took for granted prepandemic. So, I\u2019d like to extend a personal \u201cthank you\u201d to all of CFM\u2019s farmers and purveyors for your continued service to Hoosier families and to share with our readers why supporting local farmers is imperative to the local food supply. How COVID-19 Has Affected Local Farms I spoke with two Indiana farmers and vendors of CFM about how the pandemic has impacted their ability to process and sell their products\u2014in these cases, meat. As you may recall, once the news hit that national producers were shutting down their processing plants due to COVID-19 contagion, it became nearly impossible to find many meat cuts and chicken products that would have otherwise been in abundance. Couple that with the general public\u2019s overbuying spurts, and voila\u2014there was a shortage. What many may not realize is what was going on behind the scenes on small- to medium-size local farms during the onset of the pandemic and how much worse it could have been had these local farmers not been paying attention to the impending shift in the nation\u2019s food supply chain. Phelps Family Farm and Becker Farms on Pivoting Amid Pandemic Joe Phelps shared his thoughts on the pandemic and how it impacted his farming and packaging practices \u201cI could see that it was coming, and I had our normal amount of hogs and cattle scheduled to butcher,\u201d Phelps shared. \u201cI saw how things were starting to shut down, and I doubled everything I could get in to slaughter. And then I booked out for one year when usually I would book out six months. Looking back, if I could\u2019ve, I would\u2019ve added even more. Once the pandemic hit and people panicked, it didn\u2019t take long before we were overwhelmed by the demand. We had people wanting to buy hundreds of pounds of meat, and we had to put a limit on what people could have.\u201d Phelps added that now\u2014six months later\u2014they\u2019re still working their way through a list of people wanting freezer beef and hogs. \u201cSix months later and the demand is still there,\u201d Phelps reiterated. \u201cI think people are eating more at home, and the demand for the product from the farmer will continue rather than from the restaurant. We've got a restaurant chain that we supply eggs to, and that dropped off to next to nothing\u2014during the shutdown\u2014and went from 300 dozen a week to zero. Fortunately, the demand was there from the consumer, and we were able to move those eggs.\u201d While farms like Phelps and Becker Farms are able to fulfill orders through Market Wagon\u2014a home delivery service that works with local farms and purveyors\u2014they heavily rely on the farmers markets such as CFM to get their products in front of consumers. \u201cWe\u2019ve been doing the markets for 22 years,\u201d Phelps said. \u201cWe are always at the Carmel Farmers Market. And just because the meat is available in the grocery stores doesn\u2019t mean you have to drop us. Please stay with the small guys because the small guys still need the support. If everybody goes back to Walmart, there won\u2019t be a little guy.\u201d Kyle Becker added, \u201cThe date I will always look back on is March 13. That\u2019s when Tom Hanks was on all the morning shows announcing he was COVID-19 positive. My first thought was \u2018Americans don\u2019t like stress.\u2019 And I thought, \u2018We\u2019d better get ready.\u2019 I equate it to living on the coast and hearing there was an earthquake in Africa. You can\u2019t see the big wave coming, but it\u2019s on its way. So, I sprang into action.\u201d Becker explained that prior to the onset of pandemic, 70% of his product was wholesale. \u201cI started converting to retail packaging. We knew the schools would be sending everybody home, and so we had to get our products repackaged for retail. Our retail customers\u2014farmers market and Market Wagon\u2014buy 1- to 2-pound packages versus the 10-pound packages we sell to colleges. My wife gets most of the credit because she bagged all of the orders until midnight and would leave at 5 to 6 a.m. to start making deliveries.\u201d Becker explained the big mystery behind why the national processors and commercial farms weren\u2019t able to pivot on a dime like smaller and locally owned farms could. \u201cThose plants are built to where they have to have 80 to 90% employment in order for the line to run,\u201d Becker said. \u201cAt a small plant, if you lose somebody, you can slow down, and everybody else on the line compensates. Those plants are super-specialized and can only do certain things and only have packaging and USDA-approved labels for certain things. Those plants don\u2019t have the machines, logistics or approval to produce a 1-pound package that you sell at the grocery store, and the pandemic would\u2019ve been over by the time the USDA got their label approved. It\u2019s a whole process that got thrown on its head, and that\u2019s why the local food movement stepped in and filled in the cracks.\u201d Becker concluded, \u201cWe need the customers to have access to us, and Ron and the volunteer staff at CFM graciously took the time to open up the market and figured out how to do it responsibly so that the customers can continue to access our products.\u201d For a complete list of vendors at the Carmel Farmers Market, visit carmelfarmersmarket.com.