Small Farms in New York are Experiencing a Surprising Boom, Here is Why
One Wednesday in early March, Abra Morawiec realized something seismic was happening at her farm stand.
The month had been pretty quiet at the Feisty Acres table in the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan.
But that day, at the very start of social distancing, she had sold out of everything by 2 p.m.
"I had to go home three hours early," Ms. Morawiec said.
After wondering whether her small farm on the North Fork of Long Island would survive the pandemic, this was good news.
But the boom for Feisty Acres has coincided with a virtual collapse at large-scale operations like Crescent Duck Farm, also based on Long Island.
In operation for more than a century, Crescent produces a million ducks a year — about 4 percent of the industry total —
and was the supplier of choice for fine-dining restaurants in New York, including Jean-Georges and the River Cafe.
Those restaurants are closed now, and Crescent has been forced to lay off 80 percent of its workers.
When the lockdown came to the metropolitan area, the earth shifted under New York's farm-to-table supply chain.
All farms are reckoning with the disappearance of the restaurant market and the logistics of getting food directly to consumers.
But the agricultural landscape has completely reversed.
Farms with a single crop meant for use in restaurants, like microgreens or edible flowers, face disaster,
while those with diverse offerings (and especially root vegetables) have become bulwarks of the social order.
After decades of struggle to prove they are sustainable businesses,
small farms seem to be flourishing, while factory farms, in many cases, find themselves too big to pivot.
Blue Star Farm, a 10-acre operation in the Hudson Valley north of New York City,
is feeling a kind of uncomfortable success since Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued a stay-at-home order.
The farm's sales have increased during the quarantine.