NEW ORLEANS — The weight of the coronavirus shutdown is heavily resting on the shoulders of New Orleans-area restaurants. Many are not closing their doors, instead of offering take-out meals in the interim. But the economic pain caused by the pandemic only begins there.
Many of New Orleans’ world-renown restaurants subscribe to the farm-to-table style of cooking, using locally-grown produce and meats.
Those farms had their customer base cut short when the restaurants shut down. Like those offering take-out, the farms and even some produce suppliers are having to sell straight to the consumer in the interim.
“This is extremely tough for us. 95% of our business is restaurants,” said Jim Geisler, one of the owners of Covey Rise Farm in Husser, La., a few miles outside of Hammond.
The farm is now offering bundles to home chefs at pop-up markets around the metro area to stay afloat.
Friday, people lined up, spaced six feet apart, down a slow-moving Freret Street to get some of the goods.
They waited as an unassuming white truck full pulled up to unpack bags of produce on a card table.
Their setup, outside Liberty Cheesesteaks, one of those restaurants struggling to stay open.
One oversized brown bag, lined with a clear plastic one, gets a customer a variety of veggies for $30. Whatever is seasonal, blooming and growing that week goes in the bag, a kaleidoscope of nutrients ready to eat.
“We don't have anybody to sell to and this time of year things are starting to come up with this weather that we've been having. It's gonna keep growing,” said farmer Grady Seale.
In addition to the produce, the Covey Rise pop up offers fresh blooms, ones they typically sell to florists for weddings. Those are canceled too, so the flowers are an add on, snapdragons customers are eager to snap up.
“Our model was gonna put us out of business unless we found some other way to sell these vegetables,” Geisler said.
The farm uses social media to tell people where they’re going to be and when so that people can make a touch-free outing to get stocked up for a week or more.
The farm also offers Berkshire-Duroc pork for sale.
“Hopefully, we can survive this as a farm, and it doesn't last so long as we can't,” Geisler said.
And they’re not the only ones. Other farms and produce suppliers are offering their food as well direct to the consumer.
While it’s a struggle for survival for the farms, the people who are buying from them are relishing the opportunity to try new things in the kitchen as they are stuck at home for the third week now.
“I’m gonna make a strawberry pie,” Olivia Ventola said at the pop up on Freret Friday, a sweet treat for a bitter time.