Farmers sow seeds of optimism

Businesses try to maintain a sense of normalcy even in tough times. They have to. It's a common concern, but it becomes more so in times of uncertainty. Even for businesses that provide necessities, like farmers.

Consider Randell Spackman, of Thornbury Farm in Thornbury Township in Chester County, and H.G. Haskell, of Hill Girt Farm in Pennsbury. They grow and sell food and have their own little markets on their properties. How might they fare amid the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic?

Both men are hoping for the best, but neither can predict what will happen.

Haskell said he doesn't know what the effect will be, but he's hoping for the best.

"As far as food goes, we are planning on planting on schedule. We have stuff growing in the greenhouse, and I'll be planting my first corn next week," Haskell said. "None of that will be ready until the end of June, so I'm just crossing my fingers that people will be out by then. People still have to buy food, so I'm hopeful that, even if it's still a bit iffy, people will come to buy fruits and vegetables."

Customers at Thornbury Farm have a place to wash their hands.

Spackman, too, is trying to stay optimistic and opened his farm's store for the season on Saturday, April 4. While it started as Thornbury CSA — or community sponsored agriculture — eight years ago, Spackman said that anyone could shop there. You don't have to be a member. The only days when the store is for members only will be Thursdays.

Members pay either $700 for a full-share membership or $385 for getting food every other week. They also get a discount at other locations, such as The Gables, Brandywine Prime and Shoo Mamas, Spackman said.

The store is open to the general public on the weekends, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. Hours will be extended during the summer, Spackman said, adding that the store area is cleansed and bleached and has good airflow. There's also a hand-washing station just outside the store area.

Other parts of their businesses have been hurt so far. Both Haskell and Spackman said they lost a lot of plant sales but have done what they could to offset those losses by finding other suppliers.

Somethings couldn't be offset. According to Spackman, bread and brewing classes were canceled as were some weddings and other events. However, he knows some people will be looking for outdoor venues once the virus is under control, and life returns to normalcy.

"That doesn't equal out," he said, "but it helps."

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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