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Flathead Valley farms surviving during COVID-19

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Posted at 5:18 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 16:09:18-04

KALISPELL — There is hope for small farmers during the COVID-19 crisis as two Kalispell farms received grant money from the Montana Department of Agriculture.

Mandy Gerth, who has been the owner and operator of Lower Valley Farms for the past eight years, says that since the coronavirus hit, things changed at her farm.

"We have a completely different way that we farm now," she said. "We have a completely different method that we use in our pack shed now. And we have a completely different method for distribution now. And we've completed that all, ourselves, within the last six weeks."

She explained to MTN News that in addition to extra sanitation protocols and social distancing, her money is being put towards unexpected costs because of the virus.

Since the virus started, Lower Valley Farms has gone completely online. However, Gerth explained to MTN that this has presented some unforeseen challenges.

"That's a very very different distribution chain. It requires a lot more labor, and we're also finding it takes a lot more refrigeration space," said Gerth. "That's an unanticipated need, because now instead of packing one of our standard tubs with eighty bundles of radishes it now fits three paper bags with special orders."

Lower Valley Farms isn't the only farm to go online.

Noah Ashley, Operations Manager with Mountain View Gardens told MTN News that they've also gone online as their main consumers like restaurants and grocery stores aren't buying as much from them.

"We have a whole section of our market that we sell to that won't be taking produce from us," said Ashley. "Actually, we're estimating that our sales will dip sixteen thousand dollars just from the loss of sales to the schools and U of M. That's not even counting restaurants."

However, both farms say they've received grant money from the US Department of Agriculture that will relieve pressure during this process. Around $4,000 from the state will help them set up websites selling their produce directly to consumers online.

"That whole section of our customer market went down to zero so we have a lot of left over tomatoes and cucumbers with that we can't really do anything with besides send to the food bank," he said So, these online sales will create and market directly to our consumers."

Lower Valley Farm has their online store established and Mountain View Gardens will have their website up in June.

If you would like contact less delivery options for your vegetables both Lower Valley Farms and Mountain View Gardens attend the Kalispell Farmer's Market which takes place here at Flathead Valley Community College on Saturdays beginning at 9 a.m.

If you're interested in applying for a grant through the USDA please visit their website.

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