ALLEGANY, NY — For Sister Melissa Scholl and Canticle Farm Market, the coronavirus pandemic has presented a number of challenges to providing fresh produce for the Greater Olean community.
However, through curbside orders and social distancing procedures, the market at 3809 Old State Road has found a way to stay busy.
“We have continued to maintain the increase in customers that we saw at the beginning (of the pandemic)”, Scholl, president of Canticle Farm, said. “People are really choosing to have fresh, local food. They feel safer with it. I think part of that is that they don’t have to come into the market if they don’t feel comfortable doing so.”
Customers at the market can have their orders filled by staff members and volunteers without having to leave their cars.
If customers do wish to come into the market, the market staff and volunteers limit them to four at a time and insist that all wear masks and use hand sanitizer.
“We did call-in orders for about a month, especially when people were most hesitant to come to the market,” Scholl said. “People were coming to pick their orders up anyway, so that was just one more step that our staff had to take.”
Scholl expressed appreciation for the volunteers that have helped fulfill orders at the marketl; the additional help has allowed Canticle Farm employees to work in the fields planting produce.
Mark Printz, manager of the farm, said that growing has expanded past the “high tunnels” used for seasonal growing and out into fields.
“We’ve got more field hands that help with not just planting, but also harvesting,” Printz said. “Our field planting is much larger that what we do in the high tunnels, with more crops growing on a larger scale.”
Printz said that the recent unseasonably cold weather in Western New York has pushed back growing by a couple of weeks.
“The cold weather has slowed us down in the field, but some nice weather can catch you up very fast,” Printz said. “It’s nothing out of the ordinary for us.”
In the summer, Canticle Farm normally grows 40 different crops with approximately 300 varieties.
“A big part of what we do is the diversity of our products, which is to the advantage of the customer,” Printz said. “We’re finding out now that a big part of (staying healthy) is having a good immune system, and a large part of that is a healthy diet.”
Despite increased demand and sales at the market, Canticle Farm could face other financial obstacles due to the continued COVID-19 precautions.
“We are very concerned about how, or if, we can do the fundraising that keeps the farm afloat,” Scholl said. “We most likely will not be able to do our on-farm gatherings, but have a committee working on it.”
Each September, the farm holds a “farm to community” dinner featuring raffles, local foods and live entertainment. The event, which is usually attended by around 200 people, may not happen in 2020.
“We are looking at different ways of running a raffle online,” Scholl said. “A lot of the other things we have tried to do to fund Canticle Farm are totally still up in the air.”
Starting June 16, the farm market will return to its summer business schedule, open Tuesdays and Fridays from noon to 6 p.m.
Until then, the market will be open on Tuesdays only, noon to 6 p.m.
“It turns out us farmers have been social distancing for years,” Printz said. “In these times, it’s nice to have a 10-acre cubicle."
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