By Hayley Crandall
The 22nd annual South Shore Farmer’s market in South Shore Park is still in full swing, at least for a couple more weekends.
The market brings various vendors and products from around Wisconsin to the Milwaukee lakeside area and has been chugging along since mid-June.
Living off the Fat of the Land (LotFotL) Community Farm based in Elkhorn, WI is one of the market’s 39 vendors this year. The farm has been navigating farming and its accompanying business during these times.
On the selling front, LotFotL has noted some small but substantial changes that it has had to adapt. Markets are helpful, although they aren’t the only way LotFotL shares their farm-grown products.
“We have really loyal customers which has been great,” April Yuds of LotFotL Community Farm said. “They show up and they make it work and they are there because they want to support the farmers. That’s really been meaningful.”
To accommodate social distancing measures, vendor stall sizes have shrunk and there is a required “buffer table” of six feet to separate customers from the sellers, explained Yuds.
Additionally, customers are not allowed to touch produce until after purchasing.
The overall experience, Yuds confirmed, is way different this year. Yuds suspects the changes have probably affected customers’ intention to purchase, but she isn’t sure if it’s one of the major changes this year.
In fact, some of the major changes are happening back on the farm. Some of the noticeable changes seen are regarding the number of volunteers accepted and events hosted. The pandemic forced them to do without this year and simply work with the smallest crew they could safely get away with, explained Yuds.
In contrast, a real positive change has been on the harvest front. Year expectations have been exceeded – especially in intended yield, Yuds said.
With the emergence of the pandemic came a spike in interest for LotFotL’s “community supported agriculture” (CSA) program. CSA allows community members to buy a share in the farm for the season and receive produce in return. Produce ranges from organic vegetables to eggs.
“It’s a more sustainable way for a small-scale family farm to exist because your community becomes members of your farm,” Yuds explained. “They commit to getting their food from you for the whole growing season.”
LotFotL offers various levels of participation with. Their most prominent level is “Choice CSA” which gives members the chance to pick out what items they would like for the week, adding more flexibility than traditional CSA shares. This also gives families the chance to know exactly who is providing them with their food and how it’s been grown, according to the website.
“It’s pretty unique,” said Yuds. “There’s not really any other farms in the Midwest that have a program like ours.”
Planting began late February but by early April, when the pandemic really hit, Yuds realized demand was growing and upping planting was needed to accommodate.
Currently, Yuds has a waiting list of 150 people for CSA – something she hasn’t seen in years.
“This is the first year in five years that I’ve had any type of waiting list above five or 10 people,” Yuds said. “That was a silver lining. We definitely have had plenty of support and interest in our products.”
The program’s growth tells them they’re serving the community’s needs.
“People were definitely thinking about where their food was coming from and getting food within the local food chain,” said Yuds.
This is their third year doing the Choice CSA program. They began with the traditional format in 2008, one year after establishing the farm, and evolved as the community needed.
“One of our values is we want to build community through food,” said Yuds. “We look for opportunities to do that.”
Other events they have established throughout the years to share their harvest include a workshare program, where volunteers can receive products in exchange for work, community potlucks, tours and even, a cucumber fundraiser. Most of the events have been limited for the year.
Further information on the farm, including CSA season pricing and drop site locations, can be found on their website lotfotl.com.