Farm wins best COVID-19 Pivot Award

Michigan small farm recognized for its efforts to help feed neighbors in 2020.
EDITED BY ANNE BLANKENBILLER
Coveyou Scenic Farm

The Michigan State University Product Center recently recognized Coveyou Scenic Farm with the Best COVID-19 Pivot Award during its Cook, Share & Prosper online summit. This award recognizes Michigan food and farming businesses that have demonstrated excellence, innovation and growth during a most challenging year.

This past April, in the span of just a few weeks, Coveyou Scenic Farm went from wondering how it would survive this total business upheaval, to successfully landing one of USDA’s Farmer to Families Food Box Program awards. The nationwide USDA initiative provided funding to purchase produce, dairy, and meat products that were then distributed to area food banks and other nonprofits. From June to September, the Coveyou Scenic Farm team worked to produce almost 18,000 boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables for food insecure families in the Charlevoix, Antrim and Emmet county areas of Northwest Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. This provided recipients with approximately 250,000 pounds of food, supplied by Coveyou’s, 12 area small farmers and other suppliers.

This was a huge change in the Coveyou Scenic Farm business model that had previously seen 60% of its sales occurring at farmers markets, its on-farm store and through a small amount of self-distributed product to area restaurants. Working closely through the Manna Food Project, a Harbor Springs based food bank, the farm quickly added equipment, staff, and retooled operations. The Coveyous continually looked at all aspects of their wash/pack system as the program evolved. At production peaks, they were able to pack 400 to 500 boxes an hour, or one box every seven seconds! Once the boxes were packed, they were added to Manna’s distribution network of nearly 60 area food pantries and community organizations. Jessica Stoepker, community engagement and volunteer coordinator for Manna estimates at least 4,000 families benefited from this fresh, local food security effort.

“Some of the least fortunate people in our community were receiving superb quality certified organic produce on their tables less than 24 hours after it was harvested – produce that was fresher than the most financially fortunate in our community would be able to buy in a grocery store,” says David Coveyou.

The Coveyou Scenic Farm participation in the USDA Farmer to Families Food Box program has continued to have a positive impact on the business. The pivot allowed the Coveyous to concentrate efforts on expanding their own farm-based market, growing both customer counts and sales, and helping to take the sting out of revenues typically generated by sales at area farmers markets and to local restaurants.

This extensive teaming with other farmers and producers has allowed our market to attract more customers who want to do all their shopping outside of conventional brick and mortar grocery stores,” says David.

Countless businesses across Michigan have been working long hours adapting to the pandemic. In recognition of their efforts, the MSU Product Center awarded three other awards in these business categories: Best Marketing to Harwood Gold located in Charlevoix; Best New Product to Radical Plants, LLC based in Mt. Clemens; and Best 2020 Minority Business to InBooze Cocktail Kits located in Grandville.

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