'Find-a-Farmer or Market' -- easily locate and buy food produced nearby

Farmers organizations in the mid-Atlantic have teamed up to create an online directory of local growers selling food during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Nonprofits Future Harvest, Maryland Farmers Market Association, Delmarva Grown and Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments call their directory "Find-A-Farmer or Market." The interactive online map shows consumers where they can easily locate and purchase locally-produced food, safely and close to home.

"There has never been a moment in recent history that drives this home more: The Chesapeake region must be able to feed itself. Small- and mid-sized farms are here and ready to fill the big gaps left by a failing global food chain," said Future Harvest Executive Director Dena Leibman.

To become listed in the directory, farmers, farmers market managers, butchers and local food retail outlets in Maryland, DC, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia must read and follow the safety protocols for food distribution and purchases during COVID-19 and fill out the online form.  Producers can list available products and contact information, link to their online ordering system, explain additional food safety precautions they are taking, share their growing practices and list payment types accepted.

Future Harvest and MDFMA launched the idea on March 16 and the map went live on March 22, with more than 500 listings. The team is expecting to see that number expand in the coming weeks.

Future Harvest and Amy Crone, Project Manager for MarketLink, former MDFMA Executive Director, and Future Harvest board member, aggregated data from multiple organizations to populate the map and designed a user-friendly interface that can be integrated into multiple websites and shared widely.

"In light of the potentially devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our local agricultural economy, I wanted to help link farmers and consumers so that they can connect and continue to purchase local good food," said Crone. “This is a crisis during which our communities can depend on our local food system and the hard-working farmers who grow food for our tables.”

“People are leaving their homes only to find large chain store shelves empty,” said Future Harvest’s Dena Leibman, “Local grocers and farmers have plenty in stock, a stark example of how important our farmers and locally produced food is for our regional security.”

“Find-A-Farmer or Market” is one of many ongoing efforts led by local agricultural organizations and other advocates to ensure that governments consider and designate farms and farmers markets as “essential businesses,” just like grocery stores. This would allow them to remain open, productive, and adjust to the changing reality of how food will move from producer to consumer in the coming months.