Burnt Rock Farm: COVID-19 Update

We recently caught up and spoke with Justin Rich at Burnt Rock Farm in Huntington.

How are you doing considering the current circumstances we find ourselves in?

We are doing pretty well, all things considered. We don't sell at farmers markets, and sell very little to restaurants, so the 2 most affected marketing outlets are hitting other produce farmers much harder than us at the moment. 

Vermont has an amazing history of supporting its local communities and farmers, any specific moments that have stood out to you during this time?

I have been heartened to see how much civility there is everywhere I go. Granted, it's Spring and I run a produce farm, so I don't go too far these days. But when I do step out I see people giving a wide berth and a kind nod, vendors starting their trucks and delivering our supplies like professionals, workers stocking shelves and being consistently helpful, and thousands of other people doing the work that helps the world go round and anchors our existences. We've had more than our fair share of people asking "what can we do to help your farm during this?," and I appreciate the sentiment despite not being in dire need at the moment. Our little corner of the world is full of great people who just want to help. Other corners probably are, too, but I'll just give credit where I can verify it's due.  

How do you see Vermont farmers adjusting to the “new normal”?

If physically possible, farmers will adjust the same way they do to our "old normal" problems of too much rain, not enough rain, too much heat, not enough heat, etc.  Farming requires constant adaptation to changing circumstances, though usually these circumstances are weather-based or market-based, not public health-based. For farmers selling into commodity markets like our dairy farm neighbors, I just hope those markets can stabilize (or be stabilized) so that those folks can get away from mandatory production cuts and price reductions. That industry is tough in normal times and had been seeing some market improvements this winter, so the last few weeks have been very, very rough for many of them.  

How are you changing or innovating your farming practices during this time?

Like all other produce growers, we are working out standard operating procedures for getting fresh produce to market in light of rapidly evolving best practices. At this exact point in time, we are sold out of storage crops for the year, so are mostly focused on getting our 2020 crops in the ground and off to a good start. Our farm crew is great and at full strength now, so we just need to keep everyone healthy. However, if anyone could turn the outdoor temperature knob up 10 degrees we'd appreciate it!  

What are you looking forward to most once the “stay-at-home” order gets lifted?

Letting my kids play with their friends. We have two children, 7 and 4, and they have been great through this all, but they miss their friends and the structure supplied by their friends, teachers, and school schedule.  

Any words of hope or inspiration you would like to share?

One foot in front of the other - the days are getting longer out there.