Island produce farmers anticipating changes ahead of growing season

Barry Clohossey of Clohossey Farms thinks there’s going to be more of an interest from Islanders in regard to buying local produce. Right now produce farmers like Mr Clohossey are waiting to see what kind of changes they might have to make as the agriculture sector, like many sectors in the province, is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.          Jillian Trainor photo

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As the growing season gets underway in the province, producers in West Prince are unsure of what kind of changes will have to happen when it comes to selling their crops.

Barry Clohossey, of Clohossey Farms in Nail Pond, is one of the vendors at the Summerside Farmer’s Market every Saturday, but the market has been closed since mid-March. Mr Clohossey said the farm does a lot of business at the market.

“If it’s not open, it’s going to impact us quite a bit,” he said. “We’re hoping it will be open by the start of the season. We’re kind of coming down off of our winter season produce, and we’re switching over to summer. Our season will be starting up the first of July, we’ll have fresh produce, so I’m hoping things will be straightened out by then, and we’ll know where we’re at.”

For Webb’s Vegetables, a fair bit of their business comes from their vegetable stand. Trevor Webb, one of the owners of Webb’s Vegetables in O’Leary, said with the anticipated drop in roadside traffic, the farm is going to have to make some changes.

“Before, people would come in and pick out their produce, now we’ll have to pre-package it, I think, and deliver it to people if they drive in,” he said. “We’re not quite sure, it’s all up in the air just how we’re going to present our products. I don’t think people are going to travel quite as much, so I don’t think we’re going to get the drop-in traffic that we used to get, so I just want to try and increase it in other ways.”

Webb’s Vegetables also has a weekly veggie box program, something Mr Webb hopes more customers take advantage of this year.

Labour is also an issue facing producers in the province. In the spring and summer seasons, Webb’s Vegetables has four full time employees and a number of part time employees as well. The part time workers will be doing things like picking and packaging the vegetables. Planting is something the family usually does themselves.

At Clohossey Farms there are six full time employees and some part time employees, the number of which varies depending on the season. Mr Clohossey said while his regular employees are all coming back, the farm is also looking to hire two post secondary students.

Right now it’s hard to find a business that hasn’t been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as people aren’t buying cars, using hotels, or doing things like going out to eat as much, or go to the movies.

“We still have a lot of interest in our product, and we have a lot of outlets for it,” Mr Clohossey concluded. “I don’t see where it’s going to affect us any. It’s probably going to make people want to buy local more, so if that’s the case, it’s going to be helpful.”

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