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Coronavirus is driving people to one family farm

Andie Corban Oct 15, 2020
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Al Rose says in New England, people associate fall with going apple-picking. Sean Gallup/Getty Images
My Economy

Coronavirus is driving people to one family farm

Andie Corban Oct 15, 2020
Heard on:
Al Rose says in New England, people associate fall with going apple-picking. Sean Gallup/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

My Economy” tells the story of the new economic normal through the eyes of people trying to make it, because we know the only numbers that really matter are the ones in your economy.

Fall is by far the busiest time of year for Al Rose’s business, Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, Massachusetts. “When it comes to fall, especially in New England, everyone identifies with that rite to passage of going apple-picking or having hot cider doughnuts,” Rose said. He wasn’t sure what demand would look like this year because of coronavirus.

“Looking out ahead of the fall, being that is our lion’s share of our income, we were quickly trying to figure out what other adaptations we had to make,” he said. He rented four hand-washing sinks to put around the farm and created an online reservation system for people to reserve times to pick apples, pumpkins and other produce.

Three generations of the Rose family, including Al, left. (Courtesy of Al Rose)

“The demand has been kind of through the roof, it’s been unprecedented,” Rose said. “We weren’t expecting the same business in the fall, but the demand from Labor Day weekend was huge, probably 50% higher.”

In addition to pick-your-own apples, Red Apple Farm has offered dig-your-own potatoes for around 20 years, Rose said. Usually, it was mostly school groups on field trips that participated. But this year, Rose said people were “ecstatic” about it.

“We had well over 500 people dig [their] own potatoes this year,” he said. “We know next year we’re gonna have to double our potato field.”

Despite the demand for pick-your-own this year, Red Apple Farm has faced some negative consequences from the pandemic. They had to refund some customers who had scheduled weddings on the farm, and aren’t doing the usual hayrides this season. However, Rose is optimistic about how this year is turning out.

“This happened in 2001, with 9/11. We had a lot of people that came to the farm,” he said. “People needed to connect with something that was tangible, and there was a security and authenticity of being at a farm. We’re seeing that this year with COVID as well. The farm really resonates with people.”

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COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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