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Local farmers see increased demand

(KOLO)
Published: May. 8, 2020 at 1:25 PM PDT
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About 20 minutes north of Downtown Reno, there’s a small farm where more things are growing than just their vegetables.

Zach Cannady, owner of Prema Farms is busier than ever, not just tending to the crops but trying to keep up with a growing demand for fresh, locally grown food.

“It's been a pretty wild ride for us,” he said. “First couple of weeks people described it like jumping on the lottery for the camping spots in Tahoe, because it's so hard to find local produce right now.”

For the past few years, about 70% of their business came from farmers markets. But the coronavirus shut down the winter market that helps sustain their business during the colder months.

“We actually did a 180-degree pivot for our whole business model,” Cannady said. “And, it's been a really positive shift for the farm which is cool to see.”

Within a few weeks, the farm began selling home deliveries exclusively- something they never thought they would do.

“It hasn't been a practical portion of our business model so it's wild to see that that's now become 100% of everything that we're doing.”

Every Monday, their online sales go live. People can decide what they want in their box and the produce is delivered early on Saturday mornings

“Right now we're getting a tremendous amount of orders in the first hour and selling out of probably 75% of the produce that we've got in the first hour of the online store opening,” Cannady said. “So it's moving really fast.”

Fortunately, they are in the position to keep up with demand.

“If this were to happen in the middle of winter and early winter, it would be impossible for us to keep up with the demand,” he said. “Right now, our production increases, you know, 25-30% sometimes weekly. Over the next month we'll probably see a 100% increase in the production from where we're at right now.”

He’s also maxing out his space available; planting lettuce and radishes in the space between tomato plants. And with greenhouses, they are able to supply vegetables year round.

“It also means that when, you know, the local food demand gets stressed, that we'll be some of the only folks around that will continue to have supply.”

But where one local farmer is able to meet the demand for locally sourced food, some ranchers are facing a big dilemma.

“There's been an increased demand for those who produce meat on a local basis, there's no question about it,” Rob Holley, owner of Holley Family Farms said.

Most days he can be found checking on his herd of cows in Washoe Valley. A little more than 20 of them are getting ready to give birth, but it will take another year and a half at least before they are ready to go into the food system.

That does nothing to help supply in the immediate future. In fact, Holley says he is currently out of product. With large scale processing plants across the nation closing down and growing concerns about meat shortages and prices in traditional grocery stores, people are turning to their local ranchers.

“We have had to turn customers away and I know a lot of people have had to turn customers away. When there started being questions about food security, there was a rush to buy these products and get them in their freezers. So there are people now who have a quarter, or half, or even a whole beef in their freezer, whether it's ours or someone else's. That's gonna last them, a year.”

He does have animals scheduled to be processed later this year, but he’s limited by his current supply- something that was planned nearly two years ago.

“You can turn around chickens in a couple months time,” he said. “Once they come they're ready to harvest in six to eight weeks depending on the breed. But for us to take a calf that's born this time of year, and raise it up to an age where it can be slaughtered, it's a minimum of 18 months to potentially up to two years, and that doesn't include the nine months gestation.”

He’s also limited by the availability of local packing houses.

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“We haven't had enough slots in the processing to actually have those animals processed.”

Holley says he’s concerned if people can’t get meat their eating habits will change, impacting his business in the long run.

Still he’s optimistic that he will be able to meet the continued demand this year.

“I think that the local producers will be able to, over the months ahead, increase their production.”

To learn more about Holley Family Farm,

To learn more about Prema Farms,

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