There are many things people can no longer do during the coronavirus pandemic, but eating isn’t one of them.
Some local farmers in the Chino Valley received a boost in produce sales after the pandemic hit last March, and have since adjusted their operations to meet the ongoing increased demand for fresh, locally grown food.
Pete Garcia, operator of Garcia Farms in Chino with 40 acres and a roadside produce stand at 16400 Chino Corona Rd., responded to the sales boom that began last spring by planting double the amount of strawberry plants and more fall vegetables to sell this year.
The produce stand is run by his wife Claudia and is open seven days a week with strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, collard greens, radishes, carrots, beats, cilantro and other seasonal items picked fresh daily.
Regular customers are mostly from the nearby communities of Eastvale and the Chino Preserve, and some drive farther distances for the farm fresh offerings that include an exceptionally large and sweet variety of strawberries called Frontada.
The seedlings came from Central California and were planted locally in September.
Mr. Garcia said the variety is designed for sale in roadside stands.
He takes special requests from customers who want the berries picked with longer stems for dipping chocolate.
The berries appear on the plant 21 days after it flowers and the growing season lasts through June, he said.
Mr. Garcia, a second generation farmer in Chino, said his most important resource is labor, which has been unsteady during the pandemic.
New laws to prevent the spread of coronavirus among farm workers include maintaining distance in the fields and during breaks, wearing masks and gloves, frequent hand washing and no eating or drinking while working.
Farm laborers are paid minimum wage and the state requires employers to pay worker’s compensation insurance.
The farm stand is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week through July 4.
Hours will adjust in the spring.
Amy’s Farm, a non-profit working farm in Ontario, adjusted its business practices and also had a positive year despite the coronavirus.
The mission of the organization, founded at 7698 Eucalyptus Ave., is to provide the community with an opportunity to visit and experience a true operating farm.
The farm used to be in the Chino dairy preserve but is now part of Ontario’s master plan.
Before the pandemic hit, school tours were its main income source.
Farm manager Randy Bekendam, a former Chino cattleman, said after thousands of tours were cancelled, he questioned how the non-profit could financially withstand the pandemic.
Produce sales, which tripled during the first week, saved the farm.
“Long lines of customers like we had never seen before, stood at a distance from each other, and trailed around the property waiting to buy from our farm store,” he said. “The spike has leveled out but in general we are still well above pre-COVID sales.”
The organically grown produce is sold in shares using an honor system.
With the additional sales, production doubled on the 10-acre farm.
To offset the lost school tour income, Amy’s Farm, named after Mr. Bekendam’s daughter Amy, is asking visitors to either purchase something from the farm stand or donate a suggested $10 during their visit.
They also give guided tours costing a flat fee of $100 for families of up to 10 people.
The tours include feeding some of the farm animals, which is not allowed by the general public.
Visits with the horses, cows, goats, chickens, pigs and bunnies are highlights.
Volunteerism has increased at Amy’s Farm since the pandemic began as more people want to work outdoors.
Volunteers recently planted an orchard with 57 trees containing 20 varieties of plums, apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears and apples.
The trees are expected to begin producing by next year, he said,
Mr. Bekendam said volunteers also help with beautification projects that include painting, building fences and worktables, refurbishing the animal nursery area and building a hog ramp that’s used to move the animals into a trailer.
The farm manager said he sees more people since the pandemic who want to invest in their home sites, sustainability and healthy eating, which are also tenets of Amy’s Farm since its founding.
“It’s a lifestyle change and not just a movement, which can come and go pretty quickly,” he said,
The farm is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Schedule tours by calling (844) 426-9732.