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Small farms across NYS see big problems as demand shifts, shrinks amid pandemic

Local farmers are worried about the next several months, as they stare down a pandemic that’s going to add stress, to an already-stressful environment.

John Bolton, owner of Bolton Farms in Hilton, has been growing fresh greens in a greenhouse behind his home for more than a decade. He says the shutdowns have devastated his small business.

He spoke with 13WHAM about the experience, and where it’s left him to this point.

“Three weeks ago when they shut down all the restaurants, it was absolutely devastating. We were 75% restaurant business on what we produce on this farm. It also shutdown two of our three markets. We were in the Brighton markets and U of R markets all within the same few days,” Bolton told 13WHAM. “So that took away 90% of our sales revenue. As you can see, we are not stopping the growing here.”

The New York Farm Bureau says farms aren’t eligible for federal small business loans, which were made available this past week to small businesses to cover payroll and other essentials.

“We have been talking to lawmakers, we have been talking to the USDA and really make the case that there needs to be some assistance in place for farmers to make it through the tough time just like everybody else is having to deal with,” Steve Ammerman told 13WHAM. He’s the public affairs manager for the New York Farm Bureau.

“The bigger problem is that it has totally upended the distribution center. Some markets have increased for certain farmers, but also they lost a lot of other customers when the schools closed, when the restaurants closed, large institutions shut down that are major customers for a lot of products that the farmers grow, produce, and sell,” added Ammerman.