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A ‘fragile’ food system: US urban farmers see new interest during pandemic

The phone call came this past March. The woman on the other end of the line was having trouble finding produce. Empty shelves because of the coronavirus pandemic. She wanted to know if April Pandora had any to sell.

“They needed produce, and we had it,” said Pandora, who owns and operates an organic urban farm in Cincinnati. “That’s what we do.”

As small businesses around the nation are suffering the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, urban farmers like Pandora are actually seeing a boost in sales as well as heightened interest in their niche part of the region’s agricultural system.

People are more concerned with their health, so there’s a new demand for fresh, locally grown food. And when panic buyers emptied supermarket shelves, it was a wakeup call.

That’s not to say farmers are not struggling during the pandemic. In fact, some have had to destroy tens of thousands of pounds of fresh food because their usual customers – hotels, schools and restaurants – are doing less business or are shut down completely. But for others, like Pandora, who runs the Avondale-based Eden Urban Gardens, LLC, business is booming.

“People have realized how fragile our food systems really are,” Pandora said. “People got scared. People realized the grocery store only has a two- to three-day supply of food.”

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