EASTON — The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Talbot County produce stands in myriad ways this season, but most are continuing the cherished summertime tradition.
While the restrictions mandated by the state of Maryland have created unusual and difficult circumstances for many types of businesses, one local vendor has actually benefited from the unexpected logistics.
Crystal Callahan of CD Produce in Cordova reported that because she and employee Beth Heinsohn also work in education, she was able to open a few weeks early since Talbot County announced its public schools would be closed the remainder of the year as of May 6.
CD Produce normally opens in early June. This year, the 27th for the operation, goods were available at the Cordova Road location as of May 21.
Callahan experienced an increase in the number of people purchasing vegetable plants this spring as more people are spending more time at home than in years past and thus have more time to tend their own gardens.
Usually, with “two parents who work, gardening is your last priority,” she said. Lower maintenance products such as flowers have not moved off her shelves as quickly.
CD Produce also has a booth at the Easton Farmers Market, which is serving guests on a drive-thru basis this year.
Danny’s Produce of Trappe is adhering to similar protocol, as its website indicates curbside service and a contactless point-of-sale system.
Family Affair Farm outside of Cordova is presently between “u-pick” berry patch seasons but has embedded a COVID-19 precautions video on its home page. All visits are to be scheduled by appointment until further notice.
Barnyard Produce in Skipton is also taking a more cautious approach to opening, reported owner Audrey Callahan. She said she was initially reluctant to set up shop, wondering how much traffic there actually would be. After a two-week delay for the first time in her 29 years in business, however, Callahan said sales so far have been as brisk as ever.
Sugar Baby watermelons remain a top seller, she said. “Everybody seems to love them. They are good and sweet.”
While she does require masks and has placed social distancing tape around her tables, Callahan noted that COVID-19 had caused no other logistical obstacles for her. The one initial shortage, the first sweet corn of the season, was “because the weather did it.”
Several other Talbot produce vendors also blamed an exceptionally cool spring for their temporary availability issues.
Mill Creek Farms in Wye Mills has been open since April 15, but a lower volume of beach traffic made a difference.
“Almost all of our customers are tourists,” owner Dick Roberts said, basing his conclusion on the lack of locally-printed coupons redeemed on site. He said he didn’t notice an uptick in visits to his store until traffic picked up when Ocean City began loosening restrictions.
Mill Creek Farms requires a mask to enter the main building, according to a sign on the door.
Regardless of any supply chain interruptions or compliance mandates, every produce stand was busy with customers on June 22.